When we choose to repay evil with good, we write a story that is remarkable. And it’s a story that will do something good for us, even if it doesn’t change our circumstances.
- Have you ever found yourself in the height of your frustrations and been met with an unexpected kindness? How did that affect how you ultimately responded to the situation?
- Do you have someone in your life who can talk you down from even your highest point of frustration? If not, what can you do to create the opportunity to allow someone into that space?
- If you currently have a mean person in your life, what is one kind thing you can do for them this week?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
Now, as some of you know, today we are in Part Two of the series entitled mean people, and specifically what to do about the mean people and what to do about them, and just so you know, I realize that you have been mean, perhaps somebody is gonna hear or watch this message, I hope not, and you’ll come to mind… I hope that’s not the case. We’ve all had seasons in our lives when we’ve been the mean people, and mostly when we get together we’re talking about how to live a life in such a way that we’re not the mean people. So we usually focus on how to become better people, but in this series, we’re talking specifically about how to respond to or what to do about the mean people in our lives, not just the folks who bug us, we all have people who bug us.
Specifically… These are the mean people, these are the people who are deceptive, they’re controlling, they’re just unkind, they’re unpredictable, they’re manipulative, to be specific, I’m not talking about somebody who’s physically or sexually abusive, that’s different, that’s illegal. This is just the mean people, and it’s important to talk about this, and it’s important to think through how we’re gonna respond, because if we don’t have a plan, if we’re not prepared, if we’re not proactive, well, you know what happens, what happens to the mean people in our lives, the mean people in our lives, they actually gain a measure of control over our lives.
And before we know it, we are being mean, right back even if we don’t mean to, in fact, it’s almost as if we have no choice because… And you know this mean can make you mean, because mean people keep us off balance, and if somebody walks up to you and pushes you and you’re off- balance, what do you do? Well, you have no choice but to compensate. When we’re off-balance we’re forced to compensate.
I told you the first part of the story last week, we have an 80-year-old friend, Sandra and I do, named Alice, and Alice… Sandra became her legal power, financial power of attorney, because we needed to move Alice out of her home in to assisted living, and Sandra went and jumped through all the hoops to become legal power of attorney, and we eventually got Alice move. But during that process, Alice had invited a friend to move in with her who had fallen on hard times, this guy is in his late 60s, living out of his car, and out of the goodness of her heart, she said, “Well, you can stay with me a few months until you kinda get yourself together.” And we were warned that if he moved in, we would have a hard time getting him out, but when I met this guy, his name is Roger, he seemed like such a nice guy, and he was actually helpful with Alice and helpful with the garage sale, so we eventually get her house cleaned out, some of you heard this story last time, get her house cleaned out. We put the house on the market, but he won’t move out and we gave him a deadline. He won’t move out. We’re showing the house or real estate agent is showing the house, there’s nothing in the house now except Roger’s air mattress, some clothes and his computer. It’s like, it’s a lovely home. Just don’t look in there at the guy camping out in the house, he’ll be gone.
It’s difficult not to be unkind to people who’ve been unkind, it’s difficult to be sensitive to insensitive people, and again, the golden rule is like right out the window, isn’t it? When it comes to mean people. Now it’s the iron rule, it’s the do unto others as they have done unto you or as they are doing unto you, or even worse, right? But of course, and we talked about this, the problem with getting back at the mean people, or the problem with trying to get even with mean people, is that it actually makes things worse, because the problem with getting even is that it makes us even with someone we don’t really even like. It makes us like someone that we actually dislike, so the question we’re asking in this series and we began unpacking the answer last time, is what do we do? I mean, you can’t just ignore these people, that actually empowers them, and eventually you’re gonna break, right? Eventually you’re gonna break, you’re gonna act like them or worse, which actually gives them more power over you.
So there’s actually a third option, you don’t have to ignore them, you don’t have to become like them. There’s a third option that actually takes away some of their power and it actually positions us to keep our frustration from overflowing into other relationships around us.
Jesus taught it, of course, and Jesus modeled it, in fact, he was the ultimate model, but Abigail modeled it as well, and Abigail was a character in the Old Testament that many people don’t know about, and she’s part of the back story of the story of David, most of us are familiar with King David, if you grew up in church, maybe you know the story of shepherd boy David, but this story takes place in the season of his life where he is fugitive David. When he was a teenager, most of us know, he marched down into the valley of Elah, he killed Goliath with a sling shot. In that moment, he became a national hero, so King Saul, the King of Israel, brought him in close, actually made him part of his family because he was a national hero and he was a leader and he had influence, and King Saul was smart enough to know you keep your enemies… You keep your friends close and you keep your enemies close as well, and David, he realized was a bit of a threat to his power and his influence in Israel, and then he gets word that a rogue prophet had actually gone to David’s house when he was a little boy and anointed him as the next king of Israel. And if you are the current king, of course, that’s a problem because you want your son to become the next king. So now David is a threat to Saul’s dynasty.
So he tries to kill David. He eventually banishes him, David becomes a fugitive. He gathers other fugitives around him before long he’s got about 600 men, their wives, their girlfriends, their kids kind of traipsing along behind him, he’s got a small army, but he’s a fugitive from the law, and he’s angry and he’s angry with King Saul, and he’s angry with the circumstances, but he can’t get to Saul. So, he just kind of carries deceiving anger everywhere he goes, and that’s what brings us to the story, and this is where we meet Abigail. So, I’m gonna catch you up a little bit with the story, and then we’ll continue from there. Here’s how the story begins. First Samuel Chapter 25, Samuel was essentially, David’s biographer. “A certain man in Maon, who had property there in Carmel was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and 3000 sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel, and his name was Nabal.”
Now, during sheep shearing season, men and families who had a lot of sheep discovered just how much wealthier they had become, this was like Pay Day, this is an annual financial report. His name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail, and she was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was harsh and mean. There’s our word in his dealings, so David and his men hear about the fact that Nabal is having sheep shearing in Carmel and realizes Nabal is about to become even wealthier.
So David sends 10 of his men to Carmel to meet with Nabal to say, “Hey, would you be willing to share some of your wealth and some of your extra wealth, some of your extra with me and my men.” and why would David feel like he could make that request? Well, that’s what the message to Nabal… That’s the message from David’s men to Nabal explains that. Here’s what they said, they said, “Nabal, when your shepherds were with us out in the fields for months and months and months… When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel, nothing of theirs was missing.” In other words, our men could have taken whatever they wanted to take, we could have taken women, we could have taken sheep, we could have mistreated your shepherds, but instead you can talk to them, nothing went missing. In other words, your profit is due in part to our protection, so this seemed kind of reasonable, “Hey, would you share with us your profits because your profits are due in part to our protection, Nabal’s response, he was rude, he said this, “Who… ” to David’s messengers, “Who is this David?”
Now, he knew who he was. “Who is this David? Who is… Who is this son of Jesse? Who’s broken away from the King? He’s just abandoned. He’s a fugitive, he’s a nobody, he’s an outlaw. I did not ask for his help, I didn’t need his help, and I don’t owe him anything. And you can go back and tell him that.” So David’s men. They turned around and they went back and when they arrived, they reported every word. And if you were with us last time, you’ll remember David’s response. David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword.” So they did, and David strapped his own as well, and about 400 men, about 400 men went up with David, they were headed out of the mountains to Carmel. Now, these 400 men… This was an overreaction, as we said, of epic proportion. This was going to be a massacre, and as he rides along, he does what many of us have done many, many times. As he rides along, he kind of builds up a head of steam, he begins justifying to himself what he wasn’t 100% sure he should be doing. “It’s been useless” He mutters to himself. “It’s been useless, all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness, so that nothing of his was missing. And what has he done? How has he responded to me? He has paid me back evil for good.” And then God… David evokes God’s name and invites God in the equation.
“May God deal with me.” He says, “May God deal with me. May God deal with David, be it ever so severely if by morning, I leave alive one male of all who belong to him. I’m gonna kill his servants, his friends, his sons, and then I’m gonna kill him.” Now again, you read this story and you’re like, “Okay, so David… He didn’t share with you, is this, is this what you do?” Well, if we know anything or if you know anything about David’s history, this is what he did. So he’s riding along, he’s hurt, he’s angry, he’s powering up, it’s gonna be evil for evil, he’s really channeling, I think his frustration with King Saul, but King Saul is untouchable, but he’s found somebody he can take his anger out on. And that’s pretty much where we left off last time with the story. So, we’ll continue from there. Meanwhile, meanwhile back in Carmel, here’s what happened.
One of the servants, one of the servants, Nabal servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, David sent messengers. You weren’t here, we find out later, you weren’t here, but let me tell you what happened, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings. But our master hurled insults at them, yet yet Abigail, these men, David’s men, these men who were so good to us, they did not mistreat us the whole time we were out in the fields near them. Nothing went missing. Night and day. Night and day. They were like a wall around us. They protected us. The whole time we were herding our sheep near them.” And then she says, Abigail. Think it over, I want you to think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. And then I think she leans in, she doesn’t say this very loud, she whispers in Abigail’s ear, “He is such a wicked man. He’s such a wicked man that nobody, nobody can talk to him.”
So Abigail acted quickly, and here’s what she does, it’s kind of interesting. She assembles a caravan of food donkeys. Okay, you’re familiar with food trucks? Okay, food donkeys. Caravan of food donkeys, she gets all these donkeys, ties them together, and then she loads them up with food. Food donkeys, there were hundreds of loaves of bread, figs, cakes, wine. She just loads them up. She knows she has about 400 male mouth to feed, and then she told her servant, this was so smart, she said to her servants, “You go on ahead, you head out towards the plane. I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband, Nabal, what she was up to.
Meanwhile, coming down out of the mountain, here comes David and his 400 men armed for battle, and he’s just mumbling to himself, building up this head of steam, justifying, building up justification for what he’s about to do, and as he comes out of this ravine, the text tells us, he comes out of this ravine on to this big wide open plane plain. And what does he see? A caravan, a food donkeys, and in the front is this beautiful woman, and it totally messes up his mood. Have you ever had that happen like you’ve got your speech perfectly planned and you’ve kind of built up a head of steam and you’re gonna go home, you’re gonna walk down the office into the other office, you got it all worked out.
And then somebody apologizes or somebody does something so nice for you. It’s like, it’s like, I was so mad. I was perfectly mad. I was perfectly mad to deliver this message. So here comes David, he’s spent all this time, he’s got these guys, and here’s the food caravan ruins his mood. You just can’t stay mad with that going on. So here’s what the text says. “When, when Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and she bowed down before David with her face to the ground.” And this is so powerful. She begins to speak to David. She begins to speak to David as if he is already the man that she hopes he will become.
Anyway, here’s what she does, is so powerful. She fell at his feet and she said, “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you.” In other words, Just give me a minute “and please hear what your servant has to say. Please.” she says, “Pay no attention to my husband, my lord, that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name. His name means fool and folly goes with him. So you’re not wrong about my husband, okay? And as for me, your servant, I wasn’t there when your 10 men showed up and made the request. If I’d been there, I may have been able to influence my husband. I wasn’t there, this wasn’t my fault.” Referring to the 10 men that David had sent ahead of time. Then she… Then here she goes, this is so powerful, here’s what she says, “And now, and now my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives, and as you live, since the Lord, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed. Since the Lord has kept you from avenging yourself with your own hands,” and David’s like, “He did?” She’s like, “Yes, he did, he did.”
In other words, “David, you’re not… Come on, you’re not the type of person that would avenge yourself on a defenseless person, are you?” “Well, I guess I’m not.” And then she gives him credit again for being even better than he was about to be, she continues, “and let this gift which your servant has brought to my Lord be given to the men who follow you.” Again, this just completely ruins his plans. How do you justify slaughter and pillage when somebody is bringing you what you were gonna steal? “The Lord your God, the Lord your God, will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord. Because you fight the Lord’s battles.” He’s like, “I do?” “Yes, you do. You fight the Lord battles. You don’t have to fight your own battles, David, and no wrongdoing. And no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live.” “It won’t? “No, it won’t. Even though… ”
And then she refers to King Saul, because everybody knew the story, everybody knew the background of why David was a fugitive. “Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be.” This is… She uses some interesting Hebrew imagery, “The life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God.” Which is like what? Here’s basically what she’s saying, even though someone is trying to steal your life,your life, your life is tucked away securely and safely in God’s wallet.
Your life is hidden in the bottom of a lady’s large purse, it’s safe. No one will ever be able to find it. Then, this is my favorite part. Then she takes him back to 15-year-old David, his 15- year-old self when he faced Goliath. In fact, perhaps, as we talked about last time, David sword was Goliath sword, he’d actually taken it from a priest earlier. Just a few chapters earlier, perhaps she saw Goliath’s sword strapped to his back or strapped across the back of his mule, maybe that’s what gave her this idea, and here’s what she says, “But the lives… ” This is so great. “But the lives of your enemies. He, God will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling.” David…
Remember, remember God’s past faithfulness. Remember when you march down into… Walked down into the Valley of Elah to face Goliath, you weren’t a warrior, you weren’t equipped for battle, you didn’t have a sword, you just did what you felt like God wanted you to do. And do you remember how God came to your rescue? Do you remember how God defended you? Remember those days, David, you don’t need to get even. You have no need to return evil for evil. For the Lord, your God, is with you. And then, she speaks to his future. And essentially, she asked the question that we ask all the time around here, she asked the question without asking it [chuckle] directly. Essentially, in this next part, she says, “David, what story do you wanna tell when this is nothing but a story that you tell? Years from now, when you’re looking back on this season of your life as a fugitive, because one day you’re gonna be the King, God’s gonna keep his promise to you, but when you look back on the season, what story do you wanna tell?”
Here’s her version, “When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing He promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler or king over Israel. My lord… ” This is so great. “My lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or… Of having avenged himself. David, isn’t this the better story? Don’t you wanna look back on this season and realize that you stepped back instead of taking matters into your own hand?” And of course, David comes to his senses. He’s about to act like somebody he doesn’t even like. And David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgement.” In other words, you had good judgement, I didn’t. I’m thanking God for your good judgment, and I’m so grateful it intersected with the decision I was about to make. For keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands, I have heard your words, and I’m granting you your request.
Now, at some point, we all need an Abigail in our lives, don’t we? We all need somebody who can talk us down. We all need somebody who has accessed us. We all need somebody who feels permission to delve into those areas of our lives that we often times just keep people away from. We all need an Abigail. And when she shows up or when he shows up in our lives, we should be wise enough to listen. In fact, some of us, if we’re honest, from one of our greatest regrets could have been avoided if we had listened to the Abigail in our life.
0:22:30.1 S1: And then, and I was tempted to skip the rest of the story because it’s a little bit story book, but, hey, this is how the story ends, and this is how things went down back then. When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king, ’cause he’s made… She’s made all, he’s got all this extra wealth, all this extra. He was in High spirit, he was so happy and very drunk, and so she told him nothing at all until daybreak. She [chuckle] doesn’t go back and say, “You really owe me big time,” because she, she just waits. Then in the morning when Nabal was sober, his wife told him everything that had happened, and his heart failed him when he realized how close he came to being executed and losing everything he had, and he became like a stone. And then about 10 days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died. And then the story book ending. Then David sent word to Abigail asking her to become his wife.
It’s like really? Yeah, this is just how things happened back then. And what do you think she did? Abigail quickly got on a donkey and attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife. And of course, they lived happily ever after. The end. So.
Yeah, I made that part up. Okay. So here’s what we have, and this is where this begins to interface with all of our lives, either now or in the future. Three characters, three different responses, but only one hero. Nabal, David and Abigail. Evil for good. Evil for evil. This is where we’re tempted to live. And then good for evil. As we said last time, as you get to know Nabal, he’s pretty much maniacal. David is predictable in this circumstance. And Abigail is remarkable. And these are our choices, really. And if you’re not a Jesus follower, you get to choose, and hopefully, you will lean in more in one direction than the other, but it’s up to you, you’re the captain of your own ship. But if you’re a Jesus follower, we’re really only left with one option, and that’s remarkable, and the reason it’s [chuckle] our only option is two-fold. Number one, we’ve been on the receiving end of remarkable, and we have been called to model it. We don’t call our remarkable Abigail amazing Abigail, we call ours amazing what? Amazing Grace. “That while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins.”
And then Jesus who died for our sins says, “Now, I want you to not just believe in me or believe things about me, I want you to get up every single day and follow me,” to which you may be tempted to say, “Well, what does that look like?” And Jesus would smile and say, “Well, you should know by now. If you’re gonna follow me, it means you emulate me, which means I want you to love your enemies,” to which we say, “You mean tolerate and ignore it?” He says, “No, I mean love, love as… And hears His words, His words. I want you to do good, not just ignore and not just not be unkind, I want you to do good to those who hate you.” To which you would say, “I thought I was doing good, just not to hurt him, hurt her or let the air out of his tyres, or slit the air mattress and put all of his clothes out on the street and change the locks, I thought I was already doing good because of what I hadn’t done,”
Jesus says, “No, that’s not what I’m talking about. And I want you to bless those, I want you to bless those who curse you. And I want you to pray for those who mistreat you.” Does anybody do this? To pray for the… And if we’re honest, we would say, “I don’t even spend a lot of time praying for the people who treat me well,” and Jesus says, “I want you to pray for those who mistreat you. I want you to pray for the mean people. I don’t want you to do something to them. I want you to do something for them, because that’s how you keep from becoming like them.” But there’s a bonus, Jesus says, “When you do to them and for them what they don’t deserve for you to do, and when you pray for them, and when you do good to them, you actually become like your Father in heaven, because he is also kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”
So, got some mean people in your life? Parents, do your children have some mean people in their lives? And because your children have mean people in their lives… If anybody mistreats my kids, it’s like they’re mistreating me. But what would it look like in your circumstances to actually do good to those who hate you? What would it look like to return good for evil. As things continue to escalate with Roger, he threatened to sue our real estate agent, it just, it just got completely out of control.
About six days before closing, the closing that we weren’t sure was gonna happen because he wasn’t about to move out, and of course, you’re not gonna close on a house with somebody living in it, I mean, it was just so weird. And I walk into the kitchen and Sandra had been baking and she had cookie sheets out with muffins out that were cooling, and then there was a paper plate with six muffins with some cellophane over it, and clearly she was gonna take these muffins to somebody, what she does all the time, and I said, “Who are these for?” [chuckle] And she looked at me and smiled, and she said, “They’re for Roger.” And I’m like, “What?” She says, “They’re for Roger.”
I’m just like “Darling, really? And here’s what she said, she said, “I have to do this for me. I have to do this for me. I have to do something for him. I have to do something for him. And this is the best thing I could come up with.” So she went out in the garage, got on her donkey and rolled to Lawrenceville. Now, her plan was to get there and leave the muffins on his car and then text him and say, “Hey, Roger, you know,” he was outside, they had a very awkward conversation, she left the muffins, didn’t make a dent. But Sandra, she will tell you, she was free.
And then four days before the closing was to take place, after again, all kinds of just crazy stuff, he finally took his stuff and he left. But here’s the point for all of us, let’s, let’s not write a predictable story. Let’s, let’s, let’s not write a predictable… Let’s not write an evil for evil story. It’s so predictable. It’s what everybody expects you to do. It’s what you’re justified. Your friends would say, “Well, of course, that’s what you did.” This is our moment. This is our opportunity. The meaner they are, the meaner they are, the brighter our light has an opportunity to shine. And I know that because I don’t know your circumstances, I know that’s so easy for me to stand up here and say, but I’m not asking you to follow me, I’m just trying to inspire you and encourage you to follow our Savior and to write a remarkable story, to do for others precisely what they don’t deserve for you to do. And it may not, in fact, it probably won’t change anything in them, but it will do something for you.