This autumn, our worship follows our Church School curriculum, Seeking Peace Together. We are learning in worship alongside the youngest members of our community.
There’s a popular saying, engraved on bracelets and emblazoned on t-shirts with the acronym WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). Not a bad question to ponder when faced with an important decision, but I was recently tickled when I saw a meme poking good-humored fun of the saying: Most people wear “What Would Jesus Do” bracelets, but I rock my “Jesus Probably Would Not Have Gotten Himself Into This Situation In The First Place” bracelet. As Ben Franklin put it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Our Biblical heroine Abigail was way ahead of Ben as she assesses the growing tension between David and Nabal, intervening to preserve peace (1 Samuel 25). She is the consummate “hostess with the mostest,” a woman with a high EQ (emotional intelligence), and a planner. I know and love women like Abigail and I think our world would benefit from more of them.
My husband and I have established an understanding in our marriage. Like all of us, we endeavor to be calm and loving parents, and like all of us, we have times when this proves difficult. Okay, we have moments when this proves downright impossible (I’m talking about you, Spanish class grades). Recognizing this, we have developed a quick code language, “I am about a minute away from hitting a 10.” This means that one of us is becoming overwhelmed by a level of anger that we know will preclude us from being the kind of parent to which we aspire. This also means that it is time for the other parent, the one whose anger has not been assailed by the likes of teenage boys, needs to speak up and take over the dialogue for a while, with a calmer approach. Since we have devised this, through trial and error, it has preserved our individual sanity and our family relationships. It helps us to stay one step ahead of potential explosions. We love our sons with all our hearts, but we are leaning on our intelligence and our EQ. We are proactively raising our hand and saying, “please help me keep the peace in our home.”
In church, we reflect often on the greatest commandment to love God with all our heart, all our mind and all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is natural for the word love to conjure images of a generous heart, but in the Bible passage we are diving into this Sunday, we are looking at a more cerebral version of loving our neighbor. Abigail proactively intervenes to stop David (not yet king) from warring with Nabal, a wealthy rancher who is described as “surly and mean.” (1 Sam. 25:3) Abigail succeeds not only in maintaining the peace, but she has thought deeply about the implications of fighting. In her wisdom, she advises David to avoid the guilt and psychological damage he would suffer if he attacked Nabal. She stays a step ahead of the men’s anger to avert an explosion that would have a great deal of collateral damage. She knows that when two people are angry with one another, they hurt one each other and often those around them.
We all encounter Nabals in our lives and many of us are tempted to respond as David did – with anger. But let’s do more than count to ten; let’s pause to imagine the future. What will happen if I act in anger? What will happen instead if I stay one step ahead of the anger? How can I look to the models of Abigail and Jesus (WWJD) to maintain peace? Love your neighbor with all your heart, yes. And with all your mind.