22Let the bountiful table set before them become a snare and their prosperity become a trap.
23Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see,
and make their bodies shake continually.
24Pour out your fury on them; consume them with your burning anger.
25Let their homes become desolate and their tents be deserted.
26To the one you have punished, they add insult to injury; they add to the pain of those you have hurt.
27Pile their sins up high, and don’t let them go free.
28Erase their names from the Book of Life; don’t let them be counted among the righteous.
29I am suffering and in pain. Rescue me, O God, by your saving power.
Whoah. That’s in the Bible? Yes it is.
How we as God’s image bearers deal with and defend against violence in our world, as well as contend with the enemies of Christianity and persecution are issues that the church and the individual followers of Jesus have been contending with for 2,000 years.
On the one hand we read things like, “erase their names from the Book of Life; don’t let them be counted among the righteous;” and then we read, “21If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
22You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.”
Is that the difference between the Old Covenant and the new? Well, that last quote is from Proverbs 25, verses 21 and 22 – so it’s not even as simple as that!
I know that we would like to simplify things, but in this matter we just can’t. There is not a simple response to this muti-faceted, very nuanced issue. A great deal of our response comes about from our devoted submission to the will of God.
You see, when it comes down to it, we have to discern first between good and evil-remembering that evil can indeed, masquerade as good (but that the reverse can never be true)
Secondly, we must discern in our hearts what God would have us do. For example, think of the difference between confronting an attacker whom you do not otherwise know and confronting a persecutor, such as a government or a cult. Our discernment may lead us to very different responses. In the first scenario we may seek to immediately and violently defend ourselves and those for whom we are responsible. (does the attacker even know me well enough to be my ‘enemy?’) In the second, we may be called to suffer in the name of the gospel so that the Word of God and the example of Christ may be seen b the whole world.
I contend, however, that in each case our “heart condition” is the same. You see, as followers of Jesus, we have not within us a heart of stone but a heart of flesh – not a heart consumed by hatred, no matter who we are confronting, but a heart of love and a desire to share and live the Good News.