This week, instead of answering a question, I want to share with you something I wrote for another blog addressing David's sin with Bathsheba. If you find this informative, please share it with your church leaders.
It was a regular Sunday morning, my husband and I attended worship at our home church. Our senior pastor was on vacation so an associate pastor was preaching. His text was Psalm 51, David’s prayer of repentance after Nathan the prophet confronted him with his sin against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah.
My pastor began describing the background of what led up to Nathan’s confrontation. He shared the familiar story about David’s adultery with Bathsheba and how after Bathsheba became pregnant, David covered up their affair by having her husband, Uriah, put in the front lines of battle so he would be killed. Immediately I felt anxious and I was distracted throughout the rest of the sermon. Although my pastor’s emphasis was on God’s great mercy and forgiveness not David’s sin, I could not focus.
I have learned to pay attention to those internal moments as Holy Spirit led. This was not the first time I felt troubled after a pastor or speaker labeled David’s sin as adultery and his relationship with Bathsheba as an affair. I even cringe when the paragraph headings of my Bible describe David’s behavior in that way.
David’s relationship with Bathsheba was not mutual or consensual. It was not an affair. It is better described as David’s lustful craving coupled with an abuse of his power. David took Bathsheba to his bed because he could, he was the king. In the same way he misused his military authority when he later ordered Bathsheba’s husband to the front lines of battle in order to cover up his first sin (For the story read 2 Samuel 11 and 12).
When God’s prophet, Nathan, confronted David, Nathan told him a story describing a rich and powerful man who selfishly used his might to take something from another person who was helpless to stop him. David didn’t recognize himself in Nathan’s story but became outraged at such injustice. When Nathan said, “You are that man,” David saw himself and his heart broke.
After the sermon was over I told my husband I needed to talk with our pastor. I whispered a quick prayer, approached him and asked if he had a minute. Graciously he responded positively.
I said, “I know your sermon wasn’t focused on David and Bathsheba but do you think Bathsheba had a real choice?”
Surprise engulfed his entire face. He humbly said, “I never thought of it that way.” I went on to explain my concerns and how Nathan named David’s sin as an abuse of power, not of sexual misbehavior. Bathsheba is never mentioned because she was a victim, not a willing participant.
I went home hoping that the next time he preached about David’s sin with Bathsheba he would describe it as Nathan did, but the good news is that wasn’t the end of the story.
The next day I received a phone call from another one of my pastors wanting to discuss a marital altercation from the previous evening that he thought was abusive. He described what happened and then added, “Pastor shared with me what you told him yesterday about David’s abuse of power and I’m wondering if this incident isn’t similar?”
My jaw dropped and my heart rejoiced. Instead of seeing this couple’s problem as sinful anger or marital conflict, he recognized the deeper heart issues. Her husband felt entitled to his wife’s compliance and when she didn’t give him what he wanted, he used his physical power to block her right to choose. Her husband misused his authority as her husband to get his own way and he believed he had every right to do so.
I share my story in this blog because one of my passions as a Christian leader, counselor, author, and speaker is to educate other Christians about the misuse and abuse of power, especially in a family. Jesus warned his disciples against using their legitimate power or authority inappropriately.
He said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:41-46).
Biblical headship never entitles one to misuse that authority simply to get his own way, whether it is in a church, a company, community, or in a family. At the heart of most domestic abuse is the sinful use of power to gain control over another individual. The weapons used are physical strength, outbursts of anger and verbal threats, emotional battering and intimidation, economic control, sexual pressure or domination, and/or spiritual one-upmanship. One person in the relationship seeks to control the other by using anger, money, and the scriptures.
Sadly, I have seen many hurting individuals and families devastated by inadequate counsel in these situations simply because his or her pastor or counselor did not perceive the imbalance of power and control in the relationship. Instead of putting an axe to the root problem, he or she focused on anger management, conflict resolution, improved communication, or headship/ submission issues.
Jesus cautions those of us who do have positions of authority – parents, husbands, pastors, elders, counselors, teachers, and other leaders not to misuse those God-ordained positions for self-centered purposes. These roles are given to us by God to humbly serve those individuals or groups that have been entrusted to our care, not to have our ego’s stroked or to get our own way.
If my seminary trained pastor had never thought about David’s sin as an abuse of power, perhaps there other Christian leaders, pastors and counselors who don’t understand this problem very well either. I’m begging you to spread the word in the spheres of influence you have so that this problem is not only identified, but addressed Biblically.