Thursday, February 28, 2008

Letters I never sent

Today I was in a bad mood and I wanted to write and send an e-mail to a certain someone who had rubbed me the wrong way. I was given some advice from this person who seems to care, yet just doesn't quite get me or the vision God has given me for church planting.

So I set out to write this e-mail. I had written several paragraphs of complaints and things I disagreed with. For about an hour I poured over the words I had written, adding and editing as I went along. By the time I finished writing the e-mail something had happened inside of me; I was no longer angry and I ended up deleting most of what I had spent an hour writing. The e-mail I ended up sending this person was vastly different than the one I started to write. I ended up sending him a short note thanking him for his concern and assuring him that my family and I are doing great, and that God continues to supply our every need, and then some.

I was thinking about all of this as I was reading through Psalm 69 in my daily devotions. A portion of this Psalm, vv. 22-28, is what is referred to in theological terms as "imprecatory,"which literally means to curse others. Here in these recorded verses David is actually praying to God to curse those who have "shamed, scorned and disgraced him" (v.19-21).

At the end of calling down curses upon his enemies David returns to praising God for rescuing him. He poured out his complaint and the anger and bitterness towards his enemies went away. It's kind of like that e-mail that I wanted to send. I wrote it all out and by the time I got to the end of it my negative human emotions were replaced by God's amazing power to love people and realize they are no more perfect than I am.

Would God really cause my enemies to go blind, kill their children and erase their names from the book of life simply because I am angry and overwhelmed by my emotions? He might. God does defend His children against their foes. He will certainly frustrate the plans of those who intentionally set out to hurt us.

Would I really want my enemies to go blind, lose their children and have them permanately eliminated from the Book of Life? Jesus says we are to love our enemies, and bless those who persecute us and spitefully use us. So, what am I to make of things like "imprecatory Psalms?" Just because David complained about his mortal enemies before God doesn't mean God was obliged to wipe them out. Our God is a big God who can handle our anger, our frustration, our bitterness towards those who rise up against us, etc. We can turn to Him and pour out our own complaints. When we do, He will take away all of those negative, potentially harmful emotions and replace them with His spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)