We all have those moments when we are faced with a tough choice. If I choose strict obedience to what God’s word speaks to my heart then I may hurt somebody that I am commanded to love. If I disobey God’s directive then I will defile my own conscience and be in fear of consequences.
While fleeing Saul, exhausted and famished, King David and his men ate showbread from the tabernacle. This was forbidden by God’s command! A wicked servant of Saul, a man named Doeg (looks like dog), not only told Saul but then executed 85 priests of God at the bidding of Saul. The whole sad story is recorded in 1 Samuel, chapters 21 and 22.
“See,” says our defiled conscience, “David’s disobedience led to the death of 85 innocent men.” And so it goes with our conscience. Some situations demand a flexibility that stretches the limit of human reason. Yes, David and Ahimelech the Priest conspired together to break a law of God. In fact, David only asked for food, but it was Ahimelech who suggested the showbread. Still, David knew the rules. It is interesting that Ahimelech means, “my brother is King.” In that moment David was not a king but a fleeing servant. Nevertheless, Ahimelech regarded him as a brother and treated his need as paramount.
My brother is king. How I struggle with this concept. Do I treat my brothers and sisters as Kings and Queens? Are their needs urgent to me? Would I be willing to help a brother, a sister, or even a stranger at the risk of consequences to myself? Where do I draw the line? God’s word says to love my neighbor as myself and even esteem him better than myself. But what if obeying this law of God brings me in conflict with some other law of God, like obedience to government or prohibitions against the appearance of evil?
For example, would God ever expect me to help an illegal immigrant without turning him in? Would God ever tell me to go into a bar? Would God expect me to attend a meeting with religious heretics for the sake of a brother or sister? Would he require me to trespass at an abortion clinic to save a child? How far should I go to relate to or retrieve an unbelieving spouse?
Oh, there are many among us who would claim that the answers are simple. But I think not. I believe some situations require wisdom beyond our grasp. Otherwise we would be filled with the same spiritual conceit Jesus railed against more than any other sin.
Remember Naaman, the Syrian general who, after being healed of leprosy had to return to his pagan king. This is what he said to Elisha as he contemplated his return to Syria. “Yet in this thing may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please pardon your servant in this thing.” 2 Kings 5:18
And this is Elisha’s response in verse 19. “Then he [Elisha} said to him [Naaman], ‘Go in peace…’”
And what did Jesus say regarding Ahimelech and David’s transgression?
“But He [Jesus] said to them [Pharisees], ‘Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:3-8.
May God silence the voice of the adversary, who would use your own conscience as a weapon of self-condemnation rather than a tool or a compass for direction. And may God grant you the supernatural wisdom it requires to love your neighbor so recklessly that it stretches the boundaries of propriety.