Be Kind (Psalm 10)

Psalm 10

10 Why do you stand so far away, Lord,
    hiding yourself in troubling times?
Meanwhile, the wicked are proudly
    in hot pursuit of those who suffer.
Let them get caught
    in the very same schemes they’ve thought up!

The wicked brag about their body’s cravings;
    the greedy reject the Lord, cursing.
At the peak of their wrath,
    the wicked don’t seek God:
    There’s no God—
    that’s what they are always thinking.
Their ways are always twisted.
        Your rules are too lofty for them.
    They snort at all their foes.
    They think to themselves,
        We’ll never stumble.
        We’ll never encounter any resistance.
Their mouths are filled
        with curses, dishonesty, violence.
    Under their tongues lie
        trouble making and wrongdoing.
They wait in a place perfect for ambush;
    from their hiding places
    they kill innocent people;
    their eyes spot those who are helpless.
They lie in ambush
    in secret places,
    like a lion in its lair.
They lie in ambush
    so they can seize those who suffer!
They seize the poor, all right,
    dragging them off in their nets.
10 Their helpless victims are crushed;
    they collapse, falling prey to the strength of the wicked.
11 The wicked think to themselves:
    God has forgotten.
    God has hidden his face.
    God never sees anything!

12 Get up, Lord!
    Get your fist ready, God!
    Don’t forget the ones who suffer!
13 Why do the wicked reject God?
    Why do they think to themselves
        that you won’t find out?
14 But you do see!
    You do see trouble making and grief,
    and you do something about it!
The helpless leave it all to you.
    You are the orphan’s helper.

15 Break the arms of those
    who are wicked and evil.
Seek out their wickedness
    until there’s no more to find.
16 The Lord rules forever and always!
    The nations will vanish from his land.

17 Lord, you listen to the desires of those who suffer.
    You steady their hearts;
you listen closely to them,
18     to establish justice
        for the orphan and the oppressed,
    so that people of the land
        will never again be terrified. (Psalm 10, Common English Bible)

We have lost something in American society. September 11, 2001 changed something basic and significant in American society. We were never perfect, even before that tragic day. There was plenty of evil to go around. We have taken things in a tragic direction. We lost much of our compassion that day. We lost kindness. We lost caring for others. We have lost our ethical compass.

For many scholars Psalm 10 is a continuation of Psalm 9. Together, these scholars say, they make up an acrostic poem. To be honest, I am not sure I even know what that means on the context of a psalm. Because I don’t understand the context I can’t speak at all to the idea of these two psalms once being a single psalm.

As I read this psalm, I can’t help but believe it speaks loudly and clearly to American society today. We just saw the impeachment of a President whose trial could not have been more sharply divided. Regardless of which party our leaders affiliate with, none of them, it seems to me, are speaking to each other with any level of civility. When leaders lack civility, those they lead will soon follow suit.

I believe much or what we see now is a response to 9/11. We became suspicious of most anyone around us, particularly if they are Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent. But then, we started seeing home-grown terrorists and we started trusting even less. Who is the enemy and who is the friend? Who is our neighbor?

When I read verse 12 of this psalm I am I shake my head. I think to myself, have things changed at all since the psalmist wrote these words? While we may not say it quite as bluntly as the psalmist, we want God to be on our side. We want God to fight for us. Do we realize hat we want God to take sides between 2 or 200 or 2000 or however many of God’s children?

We are called to be the people to whom Jesus said, the most important commandment is to love God and another is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. We forget that Jesus asked after telling a story that after two prominent Jews went walking by an injured man, a Samaritan stops and gives aid, and Jesus asks, who was the neighbor. The one who gave aid. he one who the Jews hated because of where he was born. The one that normally the person the Jews would want God to ready his fists, the Samaritan.

God, you are on our side, not their side. Break their arms. We demand vengeance. Take care of it God. It will be so much better when you stomp them into the ground like a mud puddle. Perhaps it is time for us to stop and think, maybe those on the other side of the aisle are praying for the same thing as we.

Perhaps our biggest issue is fear. It is understandable. Who is around the corner from us, ready to do harm to someone else and for no reason other than we look different, talk different, have different political ideas, or worship different.

Retired United Methodist Bishop and current professor of The Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke University, Will Willimon wrote a book shortly after his retirement he titled Fear of the Other. This is the description of the book on Amazon’s book page.

In this no non-sense book, reliable spiritual guide, Will Willimon, invites readers to consider the Gospel command to love (and not merely tolerate) those considered to be “Other” or outside mainstream Christian culture. Rooted in the faith of Israel and the Christian story and vision, Willimon brings a Wesleyan perspective to bear on what may be the hardest thing for people of faith to do: keeping and loving the “Other” as they are – without any need for them to become like us. Emphasizing biblical teaching to receive Others for who they are and their differences as gifts and mysteries bearing the grace of God, Willimon also offers a strong critique of the privileged who all too often rush to speak of reconciliation and evade the injustice of huge inequalities faced by foreigners and strangers – as well as the antagonism the stranger experiences. He identifies concrete, everyday ways persons are formed in welcoming others without annihilating their differences. Rooted in the New Testament understanding of Gentile outsiders grafted into the covenant community, Willimon invites readers to an on-the-ground faith that remembers the God who comes to us again and again through so-called outsiders, strangers, immigrants, and those without status. Beyond welcome, Christians must become “other” to the world, shaking off the dominant culture’s identity and privilege through practices of listening, humility, and understanding.

Who might the other be? A person from a different ethnic group? A person of the opposite gender? What about a person from a different country? Could the other be someone from a class different from our own or from a different educational background or in a different age group.

The thing is, if we are to see any of this change, as people of faith, people of the calling to love, have to take the lead. We have to be the people that put all the other junk aside and say, “No, we may not agree, but I love you anyway. Let’s meet on common ground, the love of God in Christ Jesus.

There is good news in this psalm. The psalmist writes, “Lord, you listen to the desires of those who suffer. You steady their hearts; you listen closely to them, to establish justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that people of the land  will never again be terrified.”

We can sum up the words of the psalmist with one word, GRACE. If we are people of love, we will be people who are recipients of God’s grace.

Just think, what it might look like if, because we showed love, we no longer had to be afraid? We have no reason to fear, God is with us and God will see us through.

Let me close with three quotes, Facebook memes that speak to what we need to be.

“Courage does not mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.” Courage means we love despite our fear.

“F.E.A.R. has two meanings,
Forget Everything And Run.
OR
Face Everything And Rise
The Choice is yours.”

Let’s all rise above our fear.

Finally, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” There is an old song that said, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” If we love it becomes difficult be anything other than kind and that is what the world needs now.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Seeking the Genuine,
Keith

Copyright 2020, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

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