Hard Love, or Hardly Love?

Hey Guys! I’m sorry if this post is long and all over the place. I’ve been working on it for 2 weeks now, and it’s an ugly behemoth. But ugly behemoths can still be useful, right? (I comfort myself.)

So the issue I’ve been grappling with, is: why didn’t David punish his son, Amnon when he raped his half-sister Tamar (also David’s daughter)? 2 Samuel 13:21 says King David was very angry, but he didn’t do anything about it.

And the universal question is: Why is it so hard for us to correct when things go wrong?

My study Bible offers a possibility that really struck me: “Because of his sin with Bathsheba, David had lost his moral courage and wisdom.”


This hit me in the gut. Compromise robs us of the ability to see clearly. Of the ability to say “Stop! This is wrong.”

Fear of operating in hypocrisy and/or self-righteousness when you call someone out is legitimate. Jesus warned the Pharisees about judging people, calling them hypocrites: “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5)

I love what the IVP NT Commentary Series has to say about this scripture:

“We rationalize away our guilt but not that of others, and our double standard itself renders our own behavior inexcusable (compare Matt 6:22-23; Rom 2:1-3). […] Just as we would not want a blind guide leading us into a pit (Matt 15:14), we would not want a blind surgeon operating on our eyes; only one who sees well is competent to heal others’ blindness (compare 9:27-31; 20:29-34).

Basically, we lose the authority to correct what is wrong in others when we sin and hold ourselves to a different standard.

Sometimes we know we hold a double standard, and sometimes we’re blind to it. But others can see it!

YET, the commentary continues:

“Many people have ripped this passage out of context, however. Jesus […] is not warning us not to discern truth from error (see 7:15-23). Further, Jesus does not oppose offering correction, but only offering correction in the wrong spirit (v. 5; compare 18:15-17; Gal 6:1-5).”

If we are holding to the right standard, we shouldn’t let the fear of being perceived as self-righteous or hypocritical stop us from saying the truth. Sometimes we need to let someone know that what they’re doing is wrong, or possibly harmful to themselves and to others. And sometimes we need to stand up and say that an attitude or mindset in our culture is wrong. Of course this needs to be done from a place of humility and brokenness. We are far from perfect. In fact, we should expect to be on the receiving end of correction often! Our fallen nature guarantees that.

If David had corrected Amnon, maybe his younger brother Absalom wouldn’t have killed him. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it was for Absalom and the rest of his siblings to see their sister Tamar’s life ruined while Amnon continued to live his life as if nothing happened. David’s lack of moral courage led his family on a downward spiral.

We see David’s leniency again with Absalom after he kills Amnon. Absalom runs away but is eventually brought back into the kingdom. Yet David refuses to see him for two years. (The full account is in 2 Sam. 14)  If I were in Absalom’s shoes, I’d be going crazy: Talk to me! Yell at me! Forgive me! Correct me! Just don’t be indifferent.

Nothing communicates a lack of love like indifference.

This is essentially what Absalom says: “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.” Now therefore let me go into the presence of the king, and if there is guilt in me, let him put me to death.’ (2 Sam 14:32)

I believe David refused to deal with his son’s mistakes because it was too painful. The strife, the murder, and the rape were enough pain for a lifetime. But this decision to not confront only engendered more pain for David and his family.

And what ground did he have to stand on anyway? I can imagine his inner dialogue. The Bathsheba/Uriah incident was a stain on his life. The guilt must have tormented David. It’s no joke when David pleads with God to “ Wash me thoroughly [and repeatedly] from my iniquity and guilt and cleanse me and make me wholly pure from my sin!” (Psalm 51:2, AMP)

Verse 13 of his prayer now makes sense: “Then will I teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted and return to You.” David wanted to speak the truth to others from a place of wholeness, with his moral courage restored. It seems he never got there. I’m just theorizing, but I think it helps us to understand his inability to set things right in his own family.

This brings us to an important point. We all have a responsibility to each other. But parents and leaders (in any capacity), have a greater responsibility. I have a two-and-a-half year old. It hurts me when I have to discipline her. But if I don’t have the moral fortitude to do it, my daughter will grow up without the tools she needs to navigate life successfully.

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.  – Proverbs 13:24

When we discipline, we demonstrate love. We communicate that we care enough to do the hard and often unrewarding (at least in the immediate) work of correcting. We are making an investment in that person.

I love what Craig Groeschel says:  “Passive leaders produce disengaged followers. If there’s a problem everyone can see, but the leader doesn’t fix it, eventually the problem is not the real issue—it’s the leader. If a leader doesn’t care, the team isn’t going to care. Acknowledging the problem is the first step to overcoming passivity. If you’ve been a passive leader, start by doing something. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. (This is from his leadership podcast: Six Types of Leaders, Part 2)

Groeschel encapsulates this issue so well. Let’s not be passive in life or about the people we do life with! Let’s love hard, especially when it requires the hard truth.

I think we’ve established how things can go wrong when there is no moral courage. But how do we regain it once we’ve lost it? I’ll share some thoughts in my next post.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: