Making Enemies?

Readings: Psalm 79; Micah 4:1-5; Revelation 15:1-8

Return sevenfold into the bosom or our neighbors the taunts with which they taunted you, O Lord! Then we your people, the flock of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise. [Psalm 79:12-13, NRSV]

He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.

For all the peoples walk, each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever. [Micah 4:3-5, NRSV]

I love the psalms for many reasons. They are beautiful verses, bringing comfort in difficult times and give words for the joy and praise I offer God. But they are honest, giving voice to my worst fears and prejudices. If it’s a feeling I can have, it’s turned into verse somewhere in the psalms. That’s what psalm 79 is – an articulation of primal, authentic feelings. Authentic, not necessarily admirable. Wishing those whose words make me feel small and unworthy a taste of their own medicine isn’t exactly commendable, is it?

But that’s the psalms’ secret: offering up my worst, most fearful feelings to God rather than throwing it at my neighbor gives me a way to let them go before I return damage for damage. It gives me a choice of not making enemies of my neighbors.

Walking in faith isn’t running over the faiths of others, punishing them for their misunderstandings about God and life (as if I don’t misunderstand all the time); walking in faith is meaning good things for my neighbors, alleviating fear rather than adding to it.

Please God, give me the strength and wisdom to walk in faith and love. Amen.

 

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Making Enemies?”

  1. I, too, love their honesty and bold declarations even while cringing at the hateful vengeance expressed–and I don’t like what the liturgical/scriptural editors do when putting the verses that don’t fit their idea of what the psalmists are saying in parentheses or omitting them all together–reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s “bible”. I understand why they do this, but I need to experience the real and raw emotions and deal with them. It is exactly because I want to understand them that I need not agree with them. Spare me, please, from what some well-meaning folk think scripture “should” be saying or not saying.

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