Coming Close: Not Consumed

Peet DickinsonBe gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me;

my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

What can flesh do to me?

(Psalm 56:1-4 ESV)

This week we all commemorated the twelfth anniversary of the tragic day of 9/11.  It was a day when the American people, and indeed the whole world received a harsh reminder that evil is very real and active.  Although Jenny and I were living in England at the time and did not see it first hand, we have heard over the years of how this country responded to those horrible events.  We heard about all the American flags in yards and the swell of graciousness and care for one another.  We heard about the long lines at the armed forces recruitment offices.  It must have been stunning to behold this emergence of pride in and love for our country as the sorrow for those lost was deep and powerful.

I am certain that along with these very inspiring responses to the attack, there must have also been enormous rage and vengeance must have been steady theme for many.  Who can blame anyone for being filled with complete flaming wrath?  There is such a thing as righteous indignation over evil, and we saw it.  There is also, however, those who will become completely consumed by their rage and desire for revenge, and hate is their constant diet morning, noon, and night.

Some think that when Jesus said for us to turn the other cheek, it was a call to have no wrath or indignation toward our enemies.  I think that is not what Jesus meant at all.  He was fully aware of the reality of evil, and we need only look to the cross to see the lengths to which he went in order to deal with the ultimate enemy.  No, Jesus did not call his followers to be doormats, but instead was calling them to not be consumed by hate toward their enemies.  In other words, he did not want vengeance to be an idol.

Jesus’ ancestor, King David was likewise acquainted intimately with evil, and he had countless enemies.  But look how David responds as he faces the oppression of his enemies, the Philistines, in Psalm 56.  He does not turn to hate and vengeance, but instead, he turns to the LORD.  He does not minimize the reality of what he is facing, but he knows where his help comes from.  In the face of great evil he says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”  Now, that’s the way to turn the other cheek.  Put your trust in God, and then it doesn’t matter how many blows the enemy may land, you will not fall.  Whether we are talking about an enormous national tragedy like 9/11 or the daily barrage we face in our comings and goings, put your trust in God and God alone.  He will be gracious to you, and you will not be consumed.