Psalm 109: 26 Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love. 27 Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it. 28 Let them curse, but you will bless. Let my assailants be put to shame; may your servant be glad. 29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle.
Here the psalmist is crying out to God to save him from his enemies. There is a very different sentiment here than we get from Jesus in the New Testament.
In this passage it’s clear the writer wants God to exact revenge on his enemies. “Let my assailants be put to shame…”. I suppose that’s a normal human response, don’t you think? When someone wrongs us, we want payback. Sweet revenge, baby! That’ll teach ’em to mess with us! But then compare this with what Jesus says in the gospel of Matthew:
“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt 5:43-44)
Most of us have difficult people in our lives – somewhere. Might be at work, or in our neighborhood, or even at home. If things get bad enough we may even fantasize about getting some payback for the ways we’ve been wronged. Perfectly understandable.
Scripture teaches us a different way.
Rather that look for revenge, scripture teaches us to pray to the Lord about such people and let the Lord handle it. And I’m not talking prayers like the psalmist – “Get ’em Lord!”. No. Rather, Jesus teaches us to pray that the Lord might soften the hearts of our enemies and bring them to righeousness. Rather than praying our enemies would be punished, Jesus teaches us to pray for their transformation from evil to good.
You know what else happens when we pray like this for our “enemies”? The Lord shines a light on the ways we too might be responsible for the tense situation, at least in part. Let’s be honest – it’s rare that the blame falls 100% on one party and 0% on the other. When we claim responsibility for our own mistakes, we will find a spirit of anger turn to repentence. And from repentence, peace is sure to come. Even if the other party doesn’t change at all.
Prayer may change our enemy, but it will DEFINITELY change us.
Lord Jesus, today we pray for the difficult people in our lives. We especially pray for those we might describe as “enemies”. Yes, we have been wronged, and our human nature wants revenge. Yet, give us grace to pray for our enemies instead. And as we pray, Lord, tranform us from the inside out. And give us your peace. We ask this in your most holy name. Amen.