A Word from Joel - June 26, 2024

“David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not
used to them. Then David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these, for I am not used to
them.’ So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five
smooth stones from the wadi and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling
was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.” 1 Samuel 17:39-40

We love David verses Goliath stories because we need to believe that hope is possible
in the face of insurmountable odds. In our morally ambiguous world, it’s nice to have
simple stories where good guys defeat bad guys. As we mature, though, we learn that
reality isn’t so simple. Not only that, if we are to ever slay the real giants in our world,
then we’ll need a better hero than David.

1 Samuel 17 spends a lot of time describing Goliath and Saul’s armor and weapons.
Saul tries to outfit David in his armor, but David refuses and opts for five small stones
and his sling. Fighting an enemy on their terms never works. Even if you win, it’s only
temporary because eventually the other side will come back with even more force. The
only way to true victory is when we use different weapons. David used stones, but he
didn’t go far enough. He’s still fighting violence with violence, which will never work in
the long run. Violence only breeds more violence. When we play by the enemies’ rules,
eventually we end up becoming the enemy.

Audre Lorde was an American poet, philosopher, and activist. In 1983, she gave a
famous address at a feminist conference entitled, “The Master’s Tools Will Never
Dismantle the Master’s House.” She said, “They may allow us to temporarily beat him at
his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” She
exactly right. When facing the true giants of our world, things like systemic racism,
poverty, patriarchy, the rise of authoritarianism, and the climate crisis, genuine change
will only come when we put down the tools of those systems. You can’t defeat violence
with violence, which is why we needed a hero better than David.

Who might that be? Jesus slays the giants of sin, death, and the systemic power of evil,
by allowing them to do their worst to him and sending back blessing. Turn the other
cheek. Father, forgive them. It looks so weak that we prefer David and Goliath stories.
Yet, the non-violent resistance of Christ has been demonstrated time and again to
enable genuine change. We saw it in the abolition of slavery and Civil Rights
movements, in South Africa and Northern Ireland. Real change is possible, but it’s
harder than we want. It takes more courage, compassion and forgiveness than we’d
like, but that’s exactly what God has shown us toward us time and again. When we
were God’s enemy, God slayed us with love and forgiveness. Though we like to think
we are the hero of the story, we are often the anti-hero, and God overcomes us with the
most powerful weapon of all—love.
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