Friday, November 27, 2015

but I, prayer

In return for my love they accuse me,
but I continue to pray.
    -Psalm 109:4

In Psalm 109 David cries out to God for vengeance on his enemies. He is being unjustly attacked and he’s begging God to repay his oppressors unmercifully. Not only his oppressors but their wives and children as well. The literal translation of the Hebrew in verse four is, but I, prayer or but I am all prayer. David’s whole being is consumed by his need for revenge.

I can understand David’s heartfelt plea for retaliation. I can understand his rage. When we are attacked and hurting our human response is to repay, to strike back, to protect ourselves. But that is not the way of Christ. Jesus said,
Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back.  Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.

He told us to love our enemies and to pray for them. He lived out this teaching from the cross praying as he hung there dying,
Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.

Brother Robert L’Esperance of The Society of St. John the Evangelist points out that,
Icons of the Good Samaritan traditionally give the Samaritan and the man he rescued the same face. This is something we might keep in mind when we examine the plight of those who go without. These people are the same as us and only their circumstances, at this particular moment in their lives, are different.

The Good Samaritan icon by artist Charalambos Epaminonda
Loving our enemy is one of the great mysteries of Christianity which we desperately need in our fractured world today. Perhaps meditating on these hard teachings of Christ would help us Christians see that the Syrians, the Kurds, the Sudanese, and all other hurting people of our world are not so different from us. Perhaps if we were so consumed with Christ’s love that we became prayer we would see that these people are husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters just as we are. But, like the man who fell among robbers in the Good Samaritan story, only their circumstances are different.

Our rational, human, self-protective instinct is to strike back when hurt,

but I, prayer.

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