This weekend St Luke continues his revelation of the core of Christian morality begun last week with the Beatitudes and it is indeed a demanding vision. Love those who hate you. Do good things for those who harm you. Take no revenge for harm done to you. Give more than you are asked to give and expect nothing in return, even if you have a right to that return. Most simply put, for those who would be followers of Christ, to treat other people based on how others have treated them is not nearly good enough. That, after all, is the stuff of contracts of a business deal; what I give is measured by what I get or can reasonably expect to get in return.
Christ proposes for us the model not of a contract but of a covenant. A relationship in which what I bring, what I give, what I do, is not at all measured against what I get but is rather measured simply enough against all that I am capable of doing, and that whether or not I ever get anything in return at all.
Before David became king, he was a servant and a great favourite in the court of King Saul. But Saul was a weak and suspicious man, and David fell from favour very quickly. David was accused of plotting to overthrow the king and, with a few companions, was forced to run for his life, with Saul and his army close after him.
So, the reading pictures David coming into Saul’s camp while the king and his soldiers were asleep and stealing up to Saul’s bed standing sword in hand over the sleeping figure of the man who had so badly misused him. It all could have been over very quickly.
But it wasn’t because in his heart David knew that nothing he had suffered, no injustice done to him, could possibly justify killing someone so holy to the Lord as was the king. In that we find our model.
David treated Saul more kindly than he might reasonably have done, because Saul was holy to the Lord. Rather than kill him, David disarmed him, drained that situation of danger, of bitterness, of rivalry.
So must we. We too must disarm one another with an unreasonable kindness. For David, who had heard the voice of the prophet, it was clear that Saul, no matter how he seemed, was holy to the Lord.
For us, who have heard the Beatitudes, it is clear that everyone, no matter how they seem, is holy to the Lord.
I am called to treat absolutely everyone I meet better than they may seem to deserve, because absolutely everyone I meet is infinitely more sacred to the Lord than they may seem to be. For a Christian, morality is first a matter not of what we do but of what we are. Fr Andrew