One of my all-time favorite stories in the entire Bible is one that many people are not familiar with. As far as I’m concerned, this story deserves to be up there as a hall-of-fame kind of story. It is tucked away in the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel, almost as a parenthetical aside to the great victories and kingdom of David. Within this one story we get to know the true heart of ministry, and the shape of what our Christian calling can look like in a world gone mad.
David was at the pinnacle of his success. For years, he roved all over the place hiding from King Saul. David’s only crime was that he made the king jealous – envious enough for Saul to put out a hit on him. Saul eventually was killed in battle, and David ascended the throne with a series of great military victories on every side of Israel.
It is important to keep in mind that in the ancient world, kings who ascend the throne typically begin their reign by killing any-and-all potential rivals to the throne. It was so common as to be expected. So, if you are reading 2 Samuel 9 for the very first time and David begins by saying, “I wonder if any of Saul’s family are still alive,” you expect the hammer to come down. David is going to secure his throne with eliminating Saul’s family.
But David, in a twist that befits the heart of a man of God, gives his reason for wondering: “If they are, I will be kind to them, because I made a promise to Jonathan.” Rather than find relatives of Saul to kill, David wanted to find family members, so that he could show kindness.
This is how it is supposed to work in the kingdom of God, and in the Body of Christ – kindness to someone who does not deserve it. Turns out Mephibosheth was still alive, and David graciously plucked him from his life as a disabled person and brought him to the palace to care for him.
“Kindness” is a beautiful word. It is translated as such from the Hebrew word “chesed.”Chesed [pronounced “hes-ed”] is God’s steadfast love, his infinite mercy, his loyal commitment to always watch over and care for his people. And that is exactly what David did for Mephibosheth.
Oftentimes, church leaders and parishioners wonder how to attract solid upper middle-class people. Or, at least people who are much like themselves. Those put-together-people would be able to help support the church, sustain the budget, and provide fresh volunteers for getting things done. It is the standard operating procedure for many places.
But what if we took a lesson from David and turned this on its head. Instead, we scan the horizon and wonder if there are any broken people out there in our sphere of influence for whom we can show God’s steadfast love, mercy, grace, and kindness. And then do it. Without forming a committee.
David made a space at his table for Mephibosheth. One practical way we can show grace is by opening our dinner table to another. Anyone can do it. My wife and I, back in our early years, didn’t even have a kitchen table. But that didn’t stop us. We invited people to share peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with us on the floor of our tiny apartment.
We can create space and loving mercy at church by opening the Table to the spiritually disabled. Broken and hurting people need the healing of communion with God and the Body of Christ more than anyone. In some sense, this is all of us. Everyone needs the healing which can result from participating in the Lord’s Supper.
Like David, inquire about the people in your neighborhood and community. The first step is to find out who they are. Then, second, find a way to meet them. And, third, just say “hi” to them. Let an invitation to share food together arise organically and naturally, without being forced and having an agenda other than the curiosity to discover another person.
This can be done at church, as well. Scanning the building for lost and lonely people, you will see them if you look. Walk across the room and engage them in a merciful conversation worthy of your spiritual ancestor, David. Pay attention to how the Spirit leads, and follow. Let us know how it goes.
All of God’s Word is about God’s merciful wooing of wayward people back to himself. The Lord specializes in unfocused, fuzzy lives; and, gives grace. Truly, grace is the Word.