David’s loyalty to Saul and his family seems to last beyond what could be expected – that he laments Jonathan’s death is not too surprising, but he seems equally grieved by Saul’s death – though Saul had kept him on the run for years, had tried to get him killed and had twice tried to throw a spear through David.
He has no time for those who try to gain his favour by killing those they see as his enemies or rivals – or by falsely claiming to have done so, like the Amalekite in chapter 1. David refuses the traditional route for a new king, of wiping out all opposition and all potential heirs to the old throne. He even holds in honour Abner, the general who out of loyalty to Saul’s house drags the nation into disastrous civil war. When Abner’s honour is offended by his master, and he switches sides, David is willing to welcome him and recognise that he is a good man – unlike Joab, who takes his revenge for his brother’s death in the civil war.
David is willing to fight, but to fight other Israelites only where absolutely necessary. And he will not allow that fighting to be driven by vengeance.
True forgiveness leads us to put the past behind us, and to allow others to do the same. It is the way of fresh starts, and in the long run it is more powerful than vengeance or holding grudges. I believe it was Gandhi who said ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.’ We need to remember that true forgiveness doesn’t hide from conflict when it is best faced, nor does it pretend that wrong has not been done, that injury hasn’t been caused or that it just ‘doesn’t matter’. Forgiveness faces the hurt and the wrong, opposes it for as long as is needed but is then willing to draw a line under the past and start from today.
David shows this kind of forgiveness to Saul and his household. To whom can I show that forgiveness today?