Psalm 139: 19 O that you would kill the wicked, O God, and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me— 20 those who speak of you maliciously, and lift themselves up against you for evil! 21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
As I read this passage this morning several things come to mind:
1) In the days before Jesus died and rose again for the redemption of all people everywhere, our God was associated with one particular people – Israel. God acted in support of Israel as they battled other people groups over many centuries. Today’s passage reflects the exclusive nature of God’s covenant with Israel. Israel’s enemies were God’s enemies, and vice-versa.
2) I contrast this paradigm with the teachings of Jesus who said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Jesus teaches us to reach out to those who are opposed to our God, not to reject them or fight them. Other people may remain hostile towards us, but we are not to reciprocate. This was a RADICAL change in thinking in Jesus’ day. Frankly, it still is. Why is this important?
3) Despite the barbaric acts of terror perpetrated by a lunatic fringe of self-identifying Muslims, it’s important to remember that Islam is not our enemy.
Not long ago I was driving by a local mosque (a mosque is a Muslim house of worship) and found myself looking suspiciously at worshippers gathered in the parking lot. Did I expect to see someone with an AK-47 in their hands yelling “Death to America!” or something? I don’t know. It wasn’t really a conscious thought, but more a subconscious reflex. This brief thought process revealed a place my heart that appears to have grown suspicious of all Muslim people. I’m not proud of this, just being honest.
And as I reflected on this, it occurred to me this is precisely how radical Muslim jihadists want me to respond. They use their acts of terror to drive a wedge between ALL Muslims and non-Muslims. They are trying to instigate a world-wide war of religions. And my suspicious, somewhat hostile thoughts toward the people in that parking lot revealed that, to a very small degree, they’ve succeeded. Can it be true that I’ve become suspicious of 1.6 billion people worldwide – because of the acts of a few? Really? I believe this is what the Lord is exposing in me this morning, and it’s not pretty.
The question is, what am I going to do about it?
Will I allow this small seed to grow into full-blown hostility towards this overwhelmingly peaceful people group? No, I will not. This is not the sort of person I want to be, nor it is the sort of person my Christian faith calls me to be. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” THIS is what I will do. Will you join me?
Lord Jesus, today we confess to you the places in our hearts where there is growing suspicion and even hostility toward Muslims. This is exactly the kind of outcome the radicals are hoping for. Today we repent of our sinful thoughts and deeds. Give us grace to be freed from this temptation, and grow within us a heart of love instead. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.