This past Sunday, I shared a message from Psalm 9, which is all about God’s eternal reign and righteous judgment. When we have experienced unjust treatment from others, we can rest in the reality that God will certainly look after it in this life or the next. But how are we supposed to treat those who mistreat and persecute us in the meantime? Psalm 109 describes well the reality of persecution and trouble from others.
"Be not silent, O God of my praise! For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love, they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love."
You might be able to identify with some of this. Sometimes, those who accuse us are those closest to us. I think of parents who set clear boundaries in an attempt to protect their rebellious teen. Then the teen declares, I hate you, for limiting their freedom. Or I’m thinking of families who set some limits on someone whose addiction has brought great hurt. The struggling addict responds with a profanity-laced outburst that questions the love of their family. Or we might simply act in a way we think best for the family, organization, classroom or group. Yet others suspiciously question our motives and drop subtle hints of accusation.
In return for love they accuse me. Then the Psalmist states "But I give myself to prayer. We can live with this. When others accuse us, we need to run to God in prayer. We need to offer up our emotions and hurt before we respond in a sinful way. But would we pray for our accusers? Do we deal with attacks by praying fervently for your attackers (even as you may be seeking to right their wrongs or confront them) Ummmm The answer is No, most of the time if we are honest. We can even dismiss such a prayer because it does not specifically say we must pray for our attackers.
Then Jesus comes along. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecutes you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:44-45).
Though incredibly difficult, somehow such a prayer transforms the situation because we invite the Lord into it and He changes our heart through it. So pray for the Lord’s righteous judgment and pray for those who persecute you.
Lord, this one is way beyond our human ability to do in our own strength. It reveals another heart area where we desperately need you. Yet help us because your commands are for your good purposes in the world and in our lives. Thank you Jesus that you endured such hostility from us and persevered through the cross.
Tim Keller, Songs of Jesus, 286.