Today has been an interestingly eclectic one. It started with a visit to our church by Year 5 children from a local school, where we tried to explain what happened in the building and what was distinctive about Baptist Christians. From there it was straight to Costa Coffee for a meeting with Susan, our Children and Families Coordinator, to consider some of the possibilities, opportunities and possible difficulties we face in the coming months and years. Finally I came back home to work on Sunday evening’s sermon.
That’s where it has got really strange. We are exploring what happened to David between when he was anointed as Kingand when he became King. And (Goliath aside) it was a pretty stressful experience. Saul, the incumbent king, got jealous of him (perhaps also paranoid in its technical sense) and tried many times to kill him. Just before we get to the passage we are considering on Sunday (1 Samuel 23) David went to Goliath’s home town and tried to find sanctuary with the Philistines (my enemy’s enemy is my friend?).
When the king of Gath saw David as a threat David pretended to be mad so that he was dismissed as an irrelevant irritant. Is that a strategy that God would like us all to adopt? I sense a new module in Baptist Ministerial Training – feigning madness to get out of tricky situations.
- When people complain about your sermon, start doing monkey impressions – they will soon leave you alone.
- If your Deacons are ganging up on you, put Fairy Liquid in your mouth – you will start foaming at the mouth and making unintelligible ‘yuck’ sounds and they will consider that you are in need of a rest.
- If your Regional Minister unexpectedly calls around and says that he has received some phone calls that he wants to discuss with you stick some underpants on your head, a pencil up each nostril and say, “Wibble.”* He or she will soon put you on the ‘moving list’ to get you moved to a church in a new Association.
- When the BUGB Ministry Department invite you in for a ‘chat’, answer all of the questions with, “So’s your face!” You will soon find that you are placed on indefinite leave.
Please don’t think I am making fun of mental illness. It is a genuinely distressing problem for people and can strike anyone in the same way that anyone can catch a cold. We need to lose the stigma that is wrongly attached to it while exercising maximum compassion and grace.
But David feigned madness to escape from a tricky situation. Was that morally acceptable? Did God sanction it? Did he approve of it? I can’t bring myself to believe that God was pleased that David acted so strangely (dribbling, graffiti on the walls and ‘acting like a madman’). But the outcome from the subterfuge / acting was that David, God’s anointed king-in-waiting, lived to fight another day.
The ends do not always justify the means and God certainly moves in mysterious ways** (facetious thought alert, don’t follow the ** if you think you may be upset by a daft comment about God). But to pretend to be mad…? Surely we should act rationally…
What if we are experiencing unfair opposition we try to act with grace and generosity instead of hostility and anger?
What if when we receive complaints we sift them to see if there is any truth in them and anything we can learn from them?
What if when we receive a critical email we don’t fire off an immediate rebuttal but wait on God for a day or so first?
What if when Church Meetings don’t go the way we expect we don’t go off in a sulk but accept that we don’t have the monopoly on discerning God’s will (surely the foundational basis for our ecclesiology and theology of Congregational Governance)?
What if, when someone says something untrue about us we pause and consider what is making them act in that way?
You’d have to be mad!
*Thanks to Blackadder Goes Fourth for that one
** I can almost bring myself to consider a ‘Ministry of Divine Funny Walks’ – perhaps we need a sub-Department of the Ministry Department at Baptist House!