"Beware the fury of a patient man." -- John Dryden
King David, a man after God's own heart, displayed a malignant flaw in his character. In two particular instances, he refused to forgive, nursed a grudge for years, and took vengeance on those who had wronged him.
As the saying goes, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
2 Samuel 13 tells a disturbing story of rape, incest, and murder. Among the children of King David are a son, Amnon, and a daughter, Tamar, born of different mothers. Tamar's full brother is Absalom, who will later briefly usurp his father's throne. Amnon lusts for his half-sister Tamar. He confides in a friend, who advises him to lure Tamar to his bedroom under false pretenses. Amnon follows this advice and rapes his half-sister, ignoring her pleas and her promise to marry him if he will only refrain from this act. Once he is finished with her, Amnon's feelings of lust turn to contempt, and he throws Tamar out. Absalom finds his sister Tamar distraught, determines what happened to her, and takes her into his own home. From then on, Absalom hates his half-brother Amnon, but does not speak to him at all.
Two full years later, Absalom plots and executes the murder of Amnon in retaliation for Amnon's rape of Tamar.
Does any of this sound familiar? Can it be a coincidence that this same character flaw is seen in both father and son?
Again, how can we not strive to be forgiving people in the light of such a story? How can we think we are any different from Absalom or David when we refuse to forgive? While we may not carry out the same action, does Jesus not tell us it all begins in the heart? (Matthew 5:21 - 28). Lust in the heart is no different, in spiritual terms, than actual adultery. How can a grudge held against someone be any different, spiritually, than actually taking revenge?
Forgiveness is not an easy business, and it is not something to take lightly. When serious offenses occur, some confrontation and resolution is necessary, whatever form it might take.
This only brings into sharper focus an aspect of this story that is easy to miss: 2 Samuel 13:21 -- "When King David heard all this, he was furious." This quote refers to David's awareness of the rape that had taken place, two years before the murder occurred. David was furious about the rape, but apparently did nothing about it, opening the door that much wider for Absalom to assume the role of vengeful brother.
We are all at some point tempted to imagine what we might do to someone who hurt us or our loved ones: "Oh, if someone ever did (fill in the blank) to me or my family, I would do (fill in the blank) to them." We must pray we wouldn't. We must hope we wouldn't. We must prepare ourselves now for the possibility of being tested in this area at an unexpected time.
"Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself." -- Leviticus 19:18
"...do not avenge yourselves...for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." -- Romans 12:19