Painting Over Faces
One of the things I have grown to love about using the lectionary as a Bible reading plan is the daily use of the Psalms. Over the past few years, Christ has spoken to me in such tender ways through the Psalter. The confidence in God’s provision that the authors proclaim bolsters my faith. The round refusal to give in to pressure to serve the idols around Israel, is a constant reminder to keep the faith. The intimate ways that the Psalmist work through their repentance has been a guide to me time and again.
There is however, one thing that I get tripped up on in the Psalms. Whenever David, or any of the other writers, talk about their enemies, I get it twisted. I tend to think of those around me, especially those brothers in church leadership, as the enemies. I take the flaws of others and make them into the evil of the adversaries in the Psalms. So all of the sudden, a misscomunnication between myself and a brother, that I let stew over night, becomes cause for me to desire to be vindicated at his expense. And worse, I read the Psalms and feel justified in my frustration.
The real problem certainly isn’t in the text of the Psalms. The real problem lies squarely inside my ribs. In my heart. Far too often we fall into a pattern that goes something like this: We have a disagreement, sometimes slight other times significant. Then we either act cowardly or over-react in an angry way. This leads to a difficult meeting or conversation. Then after the meeting is over, we allow satan to plant seeds of frustration and anger in our hearts. Our flesh sows discontent and and we water it all with a healthy dose of self justification. Then, we allow the sun to go down on my anger (isn’t there something in Ephesians 4 about this?). We toss and turn in bed playing the event over and over in my mind. Replaying it in ways which make us seem far more clever, and far more spiritually justified.
And then, for me, when I wake up, I read the Psalms. And instead of seeing the sin that I have been wallowing in for the past day, I see those who I have sinned against and I wish these sort of things on them:
Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you. (5:10)
Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
who magnify themselves against me! (35:26)
May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt. (71:13)
Is this the right thing? Am I really justified in wishing these woes on those who have wronged me?
No. I am not. What I always fail to see when I am praying against those who have different opinions than me is my own sin. To whatever degree I have been wronged, it really doesn’t matter, I am still responsible to love and forgive. Even if my enemies did treat me wrong, my response should not be to pray for their demise. My response should be the same as Christ on the cross. He did not paint his enemies as something they were not. He prayed for their forgiveness, even in the midst of their torture.
Maybe the way of the cross is the way to properly love those who wrong us. Instead of winning arguments with our pillow, we should be repenting of our own sins. Seeing ourselves as the bad guys instead of others. Seeing Christ as the hero and not ourselves.