In his book The Singer, Calvin Miller says that love often stands quite close to hate. “Like silent chessmen, side by side. Only the color of the squares is different.”
Unfortunately, it’s true. In one moment we can be loving and honoring, and in the next, hating and dishonoring.
We all know that we’re commanded to love God, ourselves and one another—that there will be no blessing if we hate. Yet we cross the fine line between these two extremes in a heartbeat.
Whenever we diminish, dismiss, disregard or despise another’s life, we move from one square on the chessboard to another, reversing the color of the squares upon which our hearts rest. If we remain there, the game may be lost.
It doesn’t matter whether the dishonoring is toward those in authority over us or those under our own authority or even a neglect of ourselves and our need for boundaries and respect.
The principles are the same. Valuing is at the heart of love. If we are not willing to honor and esteem others, we will never love, no matter how hard we try.
If we attach high worth to others’ lives, regardless of their behavior at any given moment, we won’t slander, despise, wound or neglect them. We will see them individually as precious to God and, therefore, precious to us.
When we remember well the weaknesses in our own lives, we’ll find patience for the weaknesses in others. However, because we love them, we’ll long for them to share in the freedom we have found in trusting God.
When we honor others, we’ll begin to invest in our relationships. Recognizing every person’s great worth to God, we can affirm other people and support them in pursuit of their dreams. Once we’ve earned an individual’s trust through our faithfulness to them, we can begin to take steps to gently urge them to consider their choices in accordance with God’s will.
There is a vast difference between grieving over a wrong, making an appeal for change while you’re trusting God, and condemning and spreading our chagrin to others. We must remember that only God is the judge of the world. When we play judge, jury and hangman, we are on dangerous ground—ground that supports the growth of arrogance and self-righteous rebellion.
David, of biblical fame, knew this. He remembered the greatness of Saul. He saw the king’s tortured heart and grieved for him. But how do you suppose he managed to love this man who relentlessly sought to kill him?
Very simply, David honored Saul because he (David) honored God. David must have had a very astute comprehension of the authority God had established through the prophet Samuel’s anointed choice of king (1 Sam. 9:15-16).
While Saul sat on the throne, David’s respect for his authority and personhood superseded every logical design on earth. Every action of David toward Saul showed how highly he both valued and loved this mad king.
David spared Saul’s life in the cave (1 Sam. 24:4-22) and again on the field of war while Saul lay sleeping (1 Sam. 26:1-12). David pleaded with Saul to remember his faithfulness to the king and cease his feverish pursuit (vv. 17-25).
Yet Saul persisted until finally he was defeated in battle and fell upon his own sword. When an Amalekite soldier later delivered the news of Saul’s death, David’s troops were likely overjoyed, thinking at last David could take his place on the throne, bring the nation together and restore sanity to the kingship.
But David responded to the news of Saul’s death by tearing his clothes, weeping and fasting until evening. He mourned for the king,Jonathan and the slain of the army of Israel–the very army that had pursued him all those years.
Furthermore, David composed a lament to honor the slain king and his son and ordered all of Judah to sorrow and sing it with him (2 Sam. 1:17-27). Instead of recounting all of Saul’s weaknesses, the lament recounted his glory and strength.
David honored his enemy even in death. As an anointed leader himself, he esteemed an unworthy king worthy, not because of his actions but because of his authority and above that, his humanity.