Frenemies at Church

For some, frenemy might be a new word and you might be wondering how this word fits into the context of the life of David and our church. Allow me to explain…

As we launched this series a few weeks ago, we learned that young David was anointed King over Israel. This divine favor was kept on the downlow as there wasn’t a vacancy on the throne in Israel. King Saul was (and still is in the context of our story this week) very much in charge. When David kills Goliath, he becomes a national hero and Saul brings David into his own household and even into the royal court. David and one of Saul’s son’s Jonathan are peers and they form a very tight bond – some would call it a bromance (this might be another new word for some readers).  You can read about how this relationship got started and made its first turn towards frenemy territory here.

Saul was not always so keen on David. Their relationship lasted between roughly 10-15 years, and it could be one example of a frenemy type relationship. At times Saul was jealous of David. Other times Saul needed David to calm his nerves or for political reasons. Sometimes Saul felt threatened by David and would rage against him. For a while Saul had David on the lam, put a bounty on his head and personally hunted David with a band of soldiers. Feel free to read 1 Samuel 18 to 1 Samuel 31 to get the whole story. It’s quite the drama! And while Scripture paints David’s actions toward Saul quite favorably, we remember that the winner often commands the narrative of history and maybe David isn’t always so innocent in their relationship. But when you read the whole story, you can see where this notion of frenemies comes about, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

At one point it seems like the animosity between Saul and David is an evil spirit possessing Saul – and maybe that’s all this is. But as you read further in the story, it seems to me that Saul chooses to harbor all the anger, jealousy, ill-will and insecurities he has towards David and that resentment lashes out in ways that were life-threatening for David, corrosive to Saul’s well-being and destructive to the kingdom.

Scripture portrays David as trying to take the high road in the relationship to embody grace and that was rarely matched by Saul until the second time David spares Saul’s life in 1 Samuel 26 which God uses to bring reconciliation between the two men.

We can choose to hold on to resentments or we can learn to let them go. We can deal with our hurts in ways that bring healing and reconciliation or enmity and pain.

It would be no surprise to learn that any of us would have or had a frenemy in our lives, but it might be surprising to identify frenemies in church relationships. If that describes a relationship in your life or in your church life, you can’t control the other person, but you can choose what you are holding on to in the relationship. If what you are holding onto isn’t life-giving then invite God to help you let it go. Ask God to bring reconciliation. Reconciliation may be as difficult as sneaking into the heart of an enemy camp at night – like in the David story – but God will honor the attempt when you let go and seek forgiveness and healing. It may not come all at once or wrap up neatly like a nice story and you may not be best friends from now on, but the pain and resentment can go away, and God’s love and grace can start to flourish in your life and in our community.

A good place to start is in prayer: “Jesus, the Bible says that all things are reconciled through you. I want to have my relationships reconciled to God through you. Help me to let go of anything that I don’t need to hold on to anymore. Heal my wounds. Humble my heart and fill me with grace that I might seek to own my part in the enmity of any relationship. Do what I cannot and bring me and those I have hurt and who have hurt me to a place of healing, reconciliation, and peace. Amen.”