Winning a culture war

By Jeff Smith
Special to The PREVIEW

David, the shepherd boy and slayer of the giant Goliath, lived in a time of madness. Driven to the edge of his culture by a jealous king, he was able to bring the worship of Yahweh back to the center of public life, win his “culture war” and the crown.

The young Christian Church did much the same. Here is how Paul and the other leaders went about it.

Fleeing King Saul, fearing for his life, hiding in a cave, David was joined by other outcasts and misfits (1 Samuel 22:1,2). His first lesson was to lead the people he had and not the ones he might have chosen. The Apostle Paul described the early Christian Church saying that “not many … were wise … influential … or of noble birth” because God chooses “the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

David would not kill Saul when given the chance (1 Samuel 24:5). This allowed David to have his place later on. Centuries later, Peter told the Christian Church to “honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17) even though Nero would one day make him a martyr.

Alone, unarmed, in front of Saul and 3,000 troops, David disarmed them with a stunning appeal to the conscience of the mad monarch (1 Samuel 24:8-15). Paul said that “setting forth the truth plainly” we “commend ourselves to every man’s conscience.” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

David’s band for war made unarmed people feel safe (1 Samuel 25:14-16). Then a fool named Nabal almost provoked him to murder. Nabal’s wife stepped in and begged David not to avenge himself, saying this unjust act would follow him later (1 Samuel 25:33). Paul’s entry into the hearts of others was this: “Receive us. We have wronged no man” (2 Corinthians 7:2).

David foresaw that the great evil practiced by the king would one day wreak havoc on him and his kingdom. As Saul chased David, the Philistines regrouped and then drew Saul and his army into a field of battle of their choosing, dooming them (1 Samuel 28:4,5). Patient endurance while evil seemed to prosper was also a trademark of the early church (Romans 15:4).

With time, those loyal to David flourished, while Saul’s royal house withered (2 Samuel 3:1). It is fair to ask ourselves as Christians, do we cause people to flourish (Colossians 1:6)? This is not a given. Jesus was angered when teachers used holy law to tie heavy burdens on people or to focus on minute details while missing greater matters like mercy and justice (Luke 11:46, Matthew 23:23).

The crowning of David receives scant mention in scriptures, but his return of the worship of Yahweh required days of feasting and dancing. Shrewd in battle, skilled as a poet and singer, savvy with allies, flawed but deeply faithful, David had to triumph on several fronts. But he never failed to point to someone far greater than himself and to ideals that transcend small hearts and violent times.

The pattern still works.

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This story was posted on January 12, 2017.