Sometime later, King Nahash of Ammon died, and his son Hanun became king. David said, “Nahash was kind to me, and I will be kind to his son.” So, he sent some officials to the country of Ammon to tell Hanun how sorry he was that his father had died.
But Hanun’s officials told him, “Do you really believe David is honoring your father by sending these people to comfort you? He probably sent them to spy on our city, so he can destroy it.” Hanun arrested David’s officials and had their beards shaved off on one side of their faces. He had their robes cut off just below the waist, and then he sent them away. They were terribly ashamed.
When David found out what had happened to his officials, he sent a message and told them, “Stay in Jericho until your beards grow back. Then you can come home.” (Contemporary English Version)
Showing mercy, grace, and good faith doesn’t always have a happy ending.
Sometimes people get burned for their genuine gracious overtures. Not only do some folks not return or reciprocate with grace. There are times when someone refuses it and even responds with criticism and judgment.
King David was at the pinnacle of his rule. All Israel and Judah were under his gracious authority. David acted as a godly sovereign when he sought to use his power to show kindness and grace to those in his kingdom, even to those who were related to his former enemy, Saul. (2 Samuel 9:1-12)
Yet when David kept up his gracious ways and sent a delegation to the Ammonites in order to bring compassion to a grieving nation, they not only spurned the kindness but attributed evil intent to it.
Why in the world would they do such a thing? Why did Hanun, the new ruler of Ammon, reject David’s kindness? Because he severely misinterpreted David’s motives, and completely misjudged David’s intentions.
It is important to make wise assessments of others, and not quick judgments about people or their situations.
Being misunderstood is downright difficult to swallow. Yet we can avoid sinful reactions and respond with grace, even if grace isn’t being shown to us:
- We can be gracious by not always needing to have the last word. Any fool can get easily get sucked into an argument. Know when to stop talking.
Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. (Proverbs 10:19, NLT)
Even fools may be thought wise and intelligent if they stay quiet and keep their mouths shut. (Proverbs 17:28, GNT)
- We can be gracious through cultivating a humble spirit. Pride assumes that another can be silenced with the power of words. What’s more, wounded pride typically manifests itself by gossiping to others about our hurt.
Destructive people produce conflict; gossips alienate close friends. (Proverbs 16:28, CEB)
Pride leads to destruction; humility leads to honor. (Proverbs 18:12, CEV)
God opposes arrogant people, but he is kind to humble people. (James 4:6, GW)
- We can be gracious by developing our capacity for civility and empathy. Often when someone spews their off-base judgments and criticisms upon us, they have a world of their own past personal hurt behind the angry diatribe. We can choose to be gently curious about this, discovering why there is such a visceral reaction to our kindness.
“I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45, NIV)
Show respect for all people. Love your brothers and sisters in God’s family. Respect God and honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17, ERV)
- We can be gracious through tapping into an inner storehouse of wisdom. Knowledge puffs up. Love builds up. Wisdom is insight into reality. For the believer, it is the ability to take God’s Word and lovingly apply it to the lived experience we are enduring.
Hold on to wisdom, and it will take care of you. Love it, and it will keep you safe. Wisdom is the most important thing; so, get wisdom. If it costs everything you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:6-7, NCV)
It is true, of course, that “all of us have knowledge,” as they say. Such knowledge, however, puffs a person up with pride; but love builds up. (1 Corinthians, 8:1, GNT)
One of life’s hard lessons is that bestowing grace and mercy to others does not necessarily mean they will receive it and respond in kind.
In fact, there are some individuals who refuse grace and give back only scorn and derision. Even the Lord Jesus experienced this like no other before or after him. Christ endured all the foulness and degradation of a cruel cross because there were people who refused to see that he was extending God’s grace to them. He turned scorn on its head by despising shame and enduring pain so that we would be spared of such ignominy. (Hebrews 12:2-3)
In those times when we, at best, scratch our heads, and, at worst, weep uncontrollably over having our genuine love paid back with harsh misunderstanding, it is a good reminder that we are imitating the life of our precious Lord Jesus who knows exactly what shame is and what a profound lack of mercy can do.
It is in the seasons and events of life which produce frustration that we understand this: Perfect peace will not be found in this life. So, we more fully attach ourselves to Jesus and find genuine grace and the solidarity of faith and love.
Consider what Christ went through; how he put up with so much hatred from those misinterpreting and misjudging him. Do not let yourselves become discouraged and give up from gross misunderstanding.
Loving God, I give you thanks for sending your Son, the Lord Jesus. Christ is the pioneer of my faith. Just as he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at your right hand, so help me to live into the grace you offer through Christ’s redemptive events so that I might persevere with grace through all the unmerciful acts of this world. Amen.