Commitment and compassion are not weakness and the ability to command and oppress is not strength.
Mary Donovan Turner offers this observation in her reflections on the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah (2 Samuel 11). I have been using the Upper Room devotional 50 Days of Prayer Before and During General Conference and that sentence grabbed me one day last week.
The story of King David's adultery with the beautiful wife of another man is a well known biblical story. The consequences were severe for David and Bathsheba. The child that was conceived in this illicit sexual encounter was stillborn. After mourning the death of their child, Bathsheba, now David's wife, conceived and gave birth to another child who would become the wise successor to the king.
This story demonstrates the consequences of bad behavior and the power of God to forgive us of our wrong doing and redeem us.
But there is another powerful story within this account of David's misdeeds. It is the story of Uriah, Bathsheba's first husband and a faithful soldier in King David's army.
Turner said, "(Uriah) is the foil, the sharp contrast to all that dismays us about the great King David. In contrast to David who stays home when he should be with others on the battlefield, Uriah goes out to save his community. He lives out his commitment fully and wholly by denying himself nourishment and pleasure... He is honest, faithful, trusting, courageous...But in the end, Uriah's integrity does not guarantee his safety or shield him from danger. He is the one who loses his life. He seems to have been powerless in contrast to the great King David. Or maybe not."
Jesus emphasized the same thing when he said that one who desires to be the master but first learn to be a servant. It takes strength of character to allow others to receive honor and reward for work that you have done. The test of faithfulness is not to be found in the spotlight but in the background.
In the Gospel stories of Jesus he does not congratulate folks for conniving and scheming to assure that they "win." No, the focus is on integrity and steadfastness. He commends those who are faithful regardless of the cost.
Turner concludes the previously mentioned devotional by saying, "Perhaps this story is God's way of challenging us to imagine that commitment and compassion are not weakness and that the ability to command and oppress is not strength." She ends with the prayer, "God of strength and wisdom, lend me your vulnerability and compassion. Amen."
Taken from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," April 23, 2012. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.