In those days, Saul went down to the desert of Ziph
with three thousand picked men of Israel,
to search for David in the desert of Ziph.
So David and Abishai went among Saul’s soldiers by night
and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade,
with his spear thrust into the ground at his head
and Abner and his men sleeping around him.
Abishai whispered to David:
“God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day.
Let me nail him to the ground with one thrust of the spear;
I will not need a second thrust!”
But David said to Abishai, “Do not harm him,
for who can lay hands on the LORD’s anointed and remain unpunished?”
So David took the spear and the water jug from their place at Saul’s head,
and they got away without anyone’s seeing or knowing or awakening.
All remained asleep,
because the LORD had put them into a deep slumber.
Going across to an opposite slope,
David stood on a remote hilltop
at a great distance from Abner, son of Ner, and the troops.
He said: “Here is the king’s spear.
Let an attendant come over to get it.
The LORD will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness.
Today, though the LORD delivered you into my grasp,
I would not harm the LORD’s anointed.”
Brothers and sisters:
It is written, The first man, Adam, became a living being,
the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
But the spiritual was not first;
rather the natural and then the spiritual.
The first man was from the earth, earthly;
the second man, from heaven.
As was the earthly one, so also are the earthly,
and as is the heavenly one, so also are the heavenly.
Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one,
we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“To you who hear I say,
love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek,
offer the other one as well,
and from the person who takes your cloak,
do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you,
and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners love those who love them.
And if you do good to those who do good to you,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners do the same.
If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners,
and get back the same amount.
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High,
for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give, and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”
In those dark days before I began studying Scripture, I thought a “holy” person was someone who exuded pious, other worldly characteristics. Their eyes always turned heavenward, their thoughts constantly on “good” things. But eventually I started to realize that holy has just a one-word biblical definition: “other.” A scriptural holy person is someone who’s different from others around him or her. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with faith or religion. Some cultures, for instance, regard people who are severely mentally ill to be holy.
When Jesus asks his followers to be holy as he is, he’s simply asking them to risk being different. If you’re going to imitate him, difference is the name of the game.
David starts off today’s three readings by doing something so different that it creates amazement among his followers. He’s being pursued by the present king, Saul, who’s rightly convinced David is leading an insurrection against him. Saul’s so convinced of David’s treason that he leads 3,000 men into the desert of Ziph to track him down and kill him.
Yet when the tables are fortunately turned, David – against his soldiers’ advice - spares Saul’s life. This passage, and the “bathroom cave” episode in I Samuel 24, seem to have been prompted by the sacred author’s pro-monarchy theology. Because of that bias, he presents David as refusing to do something the vast majority of Israelites would have had no problem doing.
Christians are also expected to engage in unique behavior, not because of any pro-monarchy stance but because they, like their mentor, are unique. In today’s I Corinthians pericope Paul shares one of the reasons he buys into that theology. In God’s plan of salvation he is convinced Jesus is the “second man,” - the “last Adam.” What the first Adam screwed up, Jesus rectifies. But he and his followers can only achieve this not by just objecting to what the first man did, but by actually doing the opposite of what the first man did.
Luke gives us a partial list of those unique things in our gospel passage.
Presuming Luke and Matthew never knew about one another’s gospel, both must have employed a common source for Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount and Luke’s Sermon on the Plain. Scholars believe that yet-to-be-found source was a pre-gospel scroll chock full of Jesus’ sayings. (Usually referred to as the “Q.”) Both evangelists make generous use of it.
The teaching which holds today’s sayings together is, “Do to others as you would have them do unto you.” In Luke’s mind that simple command includes some drastic behavior. Turning one’s cheek, giving, not lending, loving, not hating, forgiving, not condemning, and giving without measuring. Such persons can’t help but stand out from those who are the opposite.
One lap from the finish of the 1989 Indianapolis 500, Emerson Fittapaldi “spun out” Al Unser Jr., the leader. Unser immediately released his restraints, climbed out of his car and waited on the track apron for Fittapaldi to come by to receive the checked flag. Everyone speculated on what gesture Unser would give to the man who had just cost him the world’s most prestigious auto race. But to the fans surprise, Unser gave Fittapaldi a totally unexpected thumbs up!
When reporters eventually caught up with Unser and asked about his thumbs up, he smiled and answered, “Well, if I did what people thought I was going to do, they’d have forgotten it in 24 hours. But I figured everyone will remember what I did just now for a long time. It’ll make all the highlight reels.”
I trust some of the unexpected things we’ll do in imitating Jesus will also make the highlight reels – the reels that really count.