Monday, June 15, 2009

More than an Underdog

Who sends a kid into a war zone with a sling shot?

The story of David and Goliath is one of the most well known stories of the Bible. And like many biblical stories that become absorbed into the mindset of our larger culture, it's popularity causes it to become trivialized to a certain degree. A reference to the story of David and Goliath has become short-hand for refering to a victorious underdog. I hear it often in sports when a small market team comes out of nowhere to challenge the perennial champions for the title. Commentators quikcly pose the question "Will David take down the mighty Goliath?" Usually, this means that the "David" team will have to out-hustle and out-smart their more talented "Goliath" of an opponent.

While I was personally dissapointed last night when a certain sports Goliath (the L.A. Lakers) wasn't defeated, as Christians and regular readers of scripture we should recognize that the story of David really has nothing to do with him being an underdog, at least not in the way we normally use that term. Yes, David is undersized, too young and inexperienced, and seemingly helpless with his sling and a lack of proper weaponry. But the point of the story is not that David conjurs up some inner drive to succeed by which he out-works or out-smarts the more powerful Goliath. The point is that David puts his trust in God and not in himself.
Of course, this trust appears naive and idealistic to those whose perceptions of reality have been shaped by the rigors and horrors of "the real world." So Saul attempts to conform David's view of reality to his own by dressing him up in respectable armor and weapons, the things in which Saul trusts. After trying on the king's armor David refuses, knowing that it is God who will decide this battle.

And so, a boy armed with trust, five stones, and a sling goes where a whole army of seasoned warriors dared not go. One stone is all it takes. The battle has barely begun and it is over. The giant is taken down by one well placed stone.

There are so many battlefields in our world; all kinds of metaphorical ones and sadly too many literal ones as well. Often its seems that the Church feels like it only has two choices in these battles; either to cower from the things that threaten us as the Israelite army did or to go into the battle with the weapons of the world as Saul wanted David to. Both of those options fail because they fail to account for God's presence. But there is a third option; stepping onto the battlefield with trust in God as our only real weapon.

Of course, that's risky. It leaves us vulnerable to the giant enemy standing in front of us and backed by an army that is supposed to be on our side but doesn't exactly have a lot faith in the odds of our success. But, of course, this is the path that Jesus walked; publicly challenging the God-mocking giants of his day while even his closest followers wondered why he hadn't taken up the more conventional weapons of revolution. And for a time it appeared that his trust had been too naive and idealistic and that the giant had won but even after death his trust was vindicated because God has the power to raise those who trust in him to new life.

In a world of tanks and nuclear weapons, a world of injustice and political games, a world where so many lines have been drawn deeply in the sand, what would it mean for us to be a people who stand between opposing armies and challenge the giants of our world, armed with only our trust in God and a sling?

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