“Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!’ This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says . . .” (2 Samuel 12:7, NIV).
It is difficult to be both prophetic and diplomatic at the same time. Nathan’s prophetic statement in 2 Samuel—which, in this case, proclaims God’s truth with clarity rather than predicting the future—is the kind of statement that is hard to speak and even harder to hear. The nature of most prophetic proclamations is directness, so how do we speak God’s truth diplomatically as Nathan did?
Diplomacy, at its best, describes a way of communicating that seeks to truly connect all of those involved.
True diplomacy does not avoid difficult truths.
Instead, it brings parties together honestly and seeks peace, confronting issues that require it while remaining palatable to all involved.
In 2 Samuel, King David committed a grave sin: adultery with Bathsheba. He then had her husband killed and took her as his own wife. By the time God prompted the prophet Nathan to confront David, David was actually being lauded as a hero for taking in the widow Bathsheba. Most were unaware of the events that had transpired to make Bathsheba a widow, but God was aware.
Nathan had several paths to choose from when carrying out the Lord’s call to confront. He could have burst into the king’s court and shamed David in front of everyone. Were Nathan and David living today, he could have skewered David on social media. Both options would have likely resulted in disaster for the prophet.
Instead, Nathan chose to be both prophetic and diplomatic.
He confronted King David and did so honestly yet diplomatically. In this case, Nathan told David a story of a wealthy man who owned many sheep and a poor man who owned only one. In the story, the wealthy man stole the poor man’s sheep to prepare for a visitor instead of using one of his own. After hearing this, David became enraged and demanded that the wealthy man be brought to justice. Nathan then said, “You are the man!” In other words, “You are the villain in this story!” David had been confronted by prophetic diplomacy, and he repented: “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Sam. 12:13).
Each week, we are bombarded with opportunities to engage with others. It is easy to fire off responses, using the excuse of being “prophetic” or being “truth tellers.” However, we as Christians are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
Telling less than the truth would be unloving. Telling the truth in a hateful way would be un-Christlike. Like Nathan, may we find a way to be both, for the glory of God.
Prayer for the Week:
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen. (from Psalm 19:14)
Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.
Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today