It was grade six and my nemesis, Terry, had gone too far. Terry was the “bad” kid in our neighborhood. He came from a pretty rough home. The house and yard weren’t very well cared for, and it wasn’t unusual to hear yelling from inside it. He and his step-sister Connie didn’t dress very well, kind of smelled bad, and were usually in trouble for something. They had come to Sunday School and VBS over the years, but I was pretty sure their mom sent them just to get rid of them for a while. I can remember being appalled when I saw them take the bread and grape juice as the communion plates were passed around. He told me later that he didn’t drink the juice because he thought it was actually wine, which surprised me because I figured that was why he took it in the first place.
But this time Terry had gone too far. It was the time of year that the Gideons handed out the little red New Testaments to the grade fives, and somehow Terry had gotten his hands on one and was walking down the sidewalk tearing out and tossing to the wind pages of the Holy Scriptures, all the while loudly mocking God and laughing much to the amusement of a couple of his ne’er-do-well buddies. A righteous fury of indignation swelled within me and certain that God was on my side I attacked . . . and got thoroughly thrashed.
The question is, was I justified in my youthful zeal? I was looking again at Psalm 139. I love that Psalm but I usually skip verses 19-21 where David wishes God would kill wicked, and that he hates those who hate God. It’s one of a number of what are referred to as imprecatory or cursing Psalms, and we are usually pretty uncomfortable with them even though they’re inspired scripture. In many of them the Psalmist calls for God to vindicate his righteousness, but without getting into a full blown defense of those Psalms, the question remains, in light of Psalm 139 and others that call for God’s justice was I justified?
Well yes and no. Yes, because Psalm 139 shows how much God hates sin. So much so that Jesus bore the full brunt of that hatred and died for our sin. And therein lies the no. God’s justice and righteousness was vindicated when Jesus died on our behalf. I was just being vindictive. So what I should have said to Terry was, “You can tear out every page but on each one Jesus says to you, ‘I love you. I forgive you.’”
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28