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The Price of Neglecting Justice: By Dennis Clark

What happens if we fail to carry out justice — if we justify sin in our own lives or in other people’s lives, and don’t deal with it the way God says?

I’d like to answer that question by taking a look at an example from II Samuel 13-15.

Here we see that King David’s son Absalom had murdered his brother Amnon and had fled to another town to escape. David, rather than pursuing righteousness and dealing with sin in Absalom’s life, only mourned Absalom’s absence and did nothing to resolve the problem.

After three years, David’s heart was longing for Absalom. He was influenced by others to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem. One of the statements that persuaded David to do this was, “God does not take away life, but plans ways so that the banished one may not be cast out from him” (II Samuel 14:14).

People were saying to David, “God is planning ways to bring your banished son back home! David, your son has suffered enough. He’s been afraid to come home. He’s lived as an outcast for three years. Isn’t it time to reach out to him and forgive him? Hasn’t he been punished enough? Come on — quit being so hard-nosed. Give up your heavy-handedness and be more loving.”

With too little thought about how God wanted him to deal with the situation, David swallowed the logic and allowed his son to return. Absalom made no restoration for what he had done — there was no confession, or atonement, or judgment. Even after he brought Absalom back, David refused to see him for two years (II Samuel 14:28).

Whenever we refuse to deal with sin in the way God wants, there will be no true brokenness, no true confession, or genuine repentance; and no genuine forgiveness. We don’t see forgiveness in the situation with David and Absalom. There was still a separation, a barrier between the two of them — mainly because David allowed his son to return without having the proper repentance and judgment for what he had done.

Allowing Absalom’s return seemed like a very loving thing to do. It was a plan; maybe a logical plan and seemingly a loving plan, but it wasn’t God’s plan. In fact, it was contrary to the command of the law. As C.H. Mackintosh has written: “Even if he had been but a manslayer, he should have remained in a city of refuge; but he was a murderer, and, with his murder upon him, he is received back again upon natural grounds — no confession, no judgment, no atonement…” And what was the result? “David’s inordinate tenderness only paved the way for Absalom’s open rebellion. Deal tenderly with evil, and it will assuredly rise to a head, and crush you in the end.”

From this example we see that what appeared to be the most loving thing on David’s part was, in reality, the most unloving thing he could do. Because Absalom was allowed to remain in an independent state, he ended up developing bitterness toward the one who was lenient toward him — his father. Eventually, in later chapters, we see Absalom stealing the kingdom away from David, purposely turning the hearts of the men of Israel against his father. David ends up fleeing for his own life and Absalom ends up dead.

We need to be very careful to not allow our judgments to be influenced by ideas apart from God’s Word. If God says to do something a particular way, we need to do it that way and believe that it will work out for good. That’s the “loving thing to do.”

We must have God’s standard concerning justice — the execution of justice, and the carrying out of discipline. Might God give us hearts that would adjust our thinking around what He says in His Word rather than coming up with our own solutions and ending up with results like David’s.


Dennis Clark is a pastor of Great Commission Church in Silver Spring, Md., director of the Great Commission Band and associate editor of The Cause. Dennis lives in Highland, Md., with his wife Thelma, and their five children.

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