Justice and mercy…



Psalm 55: 12 It is not enemies who taunt me— I could bear that; it is not adversaries who deal insolently with me—I could hide from them.13 But it is you, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend, 14 with whom I kept pleasant company; we walked in the house of God with the throng. 15 Let death come upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol; for evil is in their homes and in their hearts.

There are few things in life more painful than experiencing betrayal/rejection at the hands of a close friend or family member. This is what the psamist is writing about in these verses. He is pained by relationships that have gone south.

That said, I am taken by his sentiment in verse 15: 15 Let death come upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol (hell); for evil is in their homes and in their hearts.

While I understand this sort of visceral response to betrayal, it does not square with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus did not teach that we should seek revenge, or wish bad things upon our enemies, even those with whom we were once close friends. Quite the contrary:

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

I admit there’s a part of me that likes the psalmist teaching better than Jesus’ teaching. My human side wants my betrayers punished for their infidelity. I want JUSTICE!

But the truth is, sometimes I am the betrayer. I let people down that I love. I don’t mean to, but I do it anyway. When I am the betrayer I don’t want JUSTICE, I want MERCY. I want to be forgiven. I want to be given a second chance to overcome my mistakes. Has me asking a couple of questions this morning:

1. Where am I harboring resentment and unforgiveness towards someone I perceive has betrayed me?

2. Where have I been the betrayer? Have I apologized and asked for forgiveness?

Lord Jesus, human relationships are at once a great blessing – and an enormous challenge when they go south. Give us grace to forgive those who harm us, though we might naturally seek revenge. And also empower us to admit when we’ve wronged someone we love, and ask their forgiveness – just as we’ve forgiven those who sin against us. We ask this in your precious name. Amen.

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