FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ON SERVANT LEADERSHIP
DAVID AND SHIMEI
February 3, 2014
Today’s reading: 2 Samuel 15:13-16:13
David’s son Absalom had turned against him, and he with his entire household and whole army left Jerusalem to escape. It was a terribly sad time for David, and “he wept without ceasing. His head was covered, and he was walking barefoot.” (v.15:30b). In the midst of this miserable scenario, there appears Shimei. “He kept cursing as he came out, and throwing stones at David” (v.16:5c-6a). Shimei verbally abused David (v.16:7-8). Abishai, a top commander of David, wanted to cut off Shimei’s head, but David prevented him.
We can learn something about servant leadership from this episode. For top leaders, there will always be those who will oppose them, malign them, and throw brickbats at them, perhaps unjustly. What should be the proper posture of a servant leader subjected to such?
One, he does not react violently against his oppressor. Abishai had said, “Let me go over and take off his head” (v.16:9b), but David prevented him. Leaders have power and authority. They can easily retaliate and remove a subordinate from the scene. But a true servant leader does not resort to uncharitable acts. He either quietly accepts, or he gently corrects.
Two, he humbly considers if there is truth or validity to the verbal assaults. He does not dismiss it outright. “Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, ‘Why are you doing this?’” (v.16:10b). Leaders have their blind spots. It happens also that Christians see the splinter in another’s eye while missing the plank in their own. God often brings forth correction and chastisement from unlikely places. He should then consider why someone is so against him. He should think about the harsh words, try to understand, discern, pray, and then act accordingly.
Three, he considers that God might allow such oppression, even unjust, for God’s own purposes. “What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses? Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.” (v.16:10a,11c). The more one does pleasing service to God, the more God tries to bring that servant to greater holiness. Can he act with the equanimity of Christ, even under extremely harsh and unjust assaults? Can he forgive his detractors, and even love them? Can he appreciate the privilege of sharing the cross of his Lord? God indeed acts in mysterious and often perplexing ways.
Four, he looks to the good that can come out of such affliction. “Perhaps the Lord will look upon my affliction and repay me with good for the curses he is uttering this day.” (v.16:12). One good fruit is to be humbled even more. When laid low, God Himself exults. Another is to grow in holiness. Then there are endurance, perseverance, patience, longsuffering, forbearance, forgiveness, mercy, unconditional love. These can only come in abundance through suffering, the more intense the better, the more unjust the more salvific.
Five, he continues on with his journey. “David and his men continued on the road, while Shimei kept up with them on the hillside, all the while cursing and throwing stones and dirt as he went.” (v.16:13). Servant leaders are not to let such oppression bring them down. They just need to keep on, knowing they are serving their Lord in the right way. And knowing that they are actually the better for it.
Who are the Shimeis in your life and service? Bless the Lord for them.
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