Daily Devotion Thursday, 26 October 2023

Thursday, 26 October 2023 I am a Chrisitan despite my will to power.
1 Samuel 11.1-15 

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful.  David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, ‘This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’  So David sent messengers to fetch her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant.’

So David sent word to Joab, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab sent Uriah to David.  When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going.  Then David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house, and wash your feet.’ Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king.  But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house’, David said to Uriah, ‘You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?’  Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.’  Then David said to Uriah, ‘Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.’ So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day,  David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.  In the letter he wrote, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.’

I am still a Christian despite historic abuses of power.  We’ve abused power in two ways.  One, because when we have it, we often let it corrupt us.  This fits with Lord Acton’s famous maxim, ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’  Note the word, ‘tends.’  Fearing having any power might corrupt us, we pretend to eschew power, claiming to choose love instead.  This is the second way we abuse power. 

David’s treatment of Bathsheba and Uriah is a story of what happens when we let power corrupt.  By the time this story occurs, David lived a life of privilege and entitlement.  In the season ‘when kings go out to battle,’ he stayed home, ‘rising from his couch in late afternoon’.  He justified the rape of Bathsheba.  When Uriah refused to besmirch his honour, David issued orders making sure Uriah was killed.  No-one held him accountable. 

Yet David ‘was a man after God’s own heart’ when he balanced love and power (Acts 13.22). He forgave Saul twice, showed mercy to Mephiboseth, pardoned those participating in Absalom’s rebellion, and united Israel. 
The Rev’d Dr Martin Luther King Jr taught that, ‘Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.’ 

Wielding power without love or accountability is an abuse of power.  Abandoning power because we fear being corrupted is also an abuse.  We do this when we stay silent, not leaving our couches and getting uncomfortable addressing the cost of living crisis, climate change, systemic racism, welcoming the stranger, or working locally for the common good. 

Yes, power tends to corrupt. Yet with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and within the accountability of communities we call church, focused on Jesus, we can find ways to build and use power at its best to exercise justice at its best. Thanks be to God.

God, let me not shirk the power to be an instrument of your justice, 
nor forget that I am always within the embrace of your love. 
May your Spirit guide me and surround me 
with a community to always hold me accountable. Amen. 


Today’s writer

The Rev’d Ryan Sirmons is minister for the North West & Central Pastorate of Newcastle upon Tyne URC


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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