Reading: Psalm 31
I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
as for me, I trust in the LORD.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place (NIV).
David clearly lacked a sense of political correctness. The opening line of this psalm portion makes me want to cringe. I hate those who cling to worthless idols. What an inflammatory remark! Hate has no place in our expression of Christian faith. Didn’t David know that we are to hate the sin, but love the sinner? Perhaps we should send David off to a course in sensitivity training.
Somehow biblical David got away with making such a statement, and here we have it recorded in the pages of Holy Scripture for all to read. Hate is a less than desirable emotion. But is it warranted in certain instances? My Christian love for murdering rapists grows mighty thin at times, and I speak from a distance. If my life was directly impacted by an idolatrous, murdering rapist, I am not sure how I would respond. Christ-centred forgiveness is the right response, but gut-wrenching hate might well spring to life. My capacity for forgiveness in severe circumstances remains untested. I dare not boast in my theoretical ability to forgive.
The second part of David’s opening remark is of crucial importance. I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the LORD.
Only trust in the LORD can break the crippling bondage of sin and hate. Vengeance belongs to the LORD, not to the seething heart tortured and taunted by anger. Secular author Malcolm Gladwell explores the extraordinary power of forgiveness in his most recent book, David and Goliath. Gladwell’s thoughts and research on the topic make for an insightful read. He concludes that forgiveness has the power to turn the world upside down. That’s the power we find in the gospel. Rather than be caught in the trap of ruinous hate, through the power of Christ we have the ability to step into the liberty of forgiveness.
By the gracious Holy Spirit we have the ability to choose love over hate. David’s confession can then become our own, “I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.”
When we choose love over hate, forgiveness over vengeance, trust in God over reliance on our own ability, we defeat Satan, the true enemy of our soul. Then the LORD sets us at liberty in a spacious place. With David we can declare, “You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.”
Response: LORD God, thank you for your forgiveness. Help me to practice it daily. Give me a forgiving spirit like your Son, Jesus, who forgave those who crucified him (Luke 23:34). Amen.
Your Turn: Is there someone you need to forgive? Do it today.