Some will insist on mere coincidence, but sometimes the intersection of Scripture and current events seems providential. I have been publishing commentaries on the Psalms in numerical order, with the fifth being my most recent. So here I am on Sunday, August 4, the day after two mass shootings within a 14-hour period in the United States. Reading Psalm 6 the direct relevance to our current tragic situation becomes crystal clear if we substitute “me” with “us;” “I” with “we;” “my” with “our.”
O Lord, rebuke me not in thy anger,
nor chasten me in thy wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is sorely troubled.
But thou, O Lord—how long?
We all need to reflect on what has happened within the United States to cause so many acts of senseless mass murder. It will simply not do to mindlessly fall back into our trite pet political positions. Do any of you really imagine that there is a bright line between the “pure” and “impure” in this situation? Perhaps rather than striking poses of self-justification we should rather ask the Almighty what we have done to bring this evil upon ourselves. I contend that the answer would shock and humble each and every one of us.
Yes, our bones and souls are “sorely troubled.” How many of us (me definitely included) have stopped to think about where God’s judgement fits into our contemporary crisis? While we cannot know “how long” God will allow this to last we can be sure that our healing will be delayed until we abandon our pride and earnestly seek God’s Face.
Turn, O Lord, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of thy steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee;
in Sheol who can give thee praise?
To whom do we turn for deliverance? To political strong men and women? To bumper stickers, lapel buttons and door decals? To political parties and human ideologies? When was the last time that we knelt down before God in fear and trembling and sought His deliverance? What a difference that would make in our spiritual and worldly responses to this terrible crisis.
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief,
it grows weak because of all my foes.
Look at the honesty of the Psalmist as he describes his sense of helplessness. Can we be as honest with each other and to God? Or do we (and I) always have to have the last word, the stinging rebuke, the confident statement or the certain solution?
Depart from me, all you workers of evil;
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my supplication;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and sorely troubled;
they shall turn back, and be put to shame in a moment.
Are we confident that the Lord hears our prayers and will accept them? Do we believe that behind the scenes of the visible world God will act on our behalf? Do we really know who are our enemies? Are they our political opponents, or are they really “the powers of this dark world” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12)?
Finally, what would happen if we ceased looking on our political opponents as “the dehumanized other” but rather as fellow children of God caught up with us in this fallen world?
I contend it would make a massive difference for the better.
This is not a plea for a utopian “kum ba yah” transformation where love and kindness wins the day. No, we (and I) will continue in sometimes contentious, heated debate with our political and theological opponents. But we must do so with the goal of seeking to persuade other fellow human beings that our perspectives are more valid while maintaining the humility to listen to their critiques and accept their correction when we have been proved wrong.