Psalm 69:1-16, Matthew 7:7-11
In a way it can seem that the Psalms can be a bit of simple way to see and understand our connection to God. One reason for that is there are five kinds of Psalms. Praise, wisdom, royal, thanksgiving, and lament. Royal psalms are the psalms that claim God is acting from a position of authority like a king. The others are pretty self explanatory as to their content and taken all together the Psalms are pretty good at describing what it means to be a human being and how we are connected to God.
It’s easy to believe that everything we run into is a new thing but humans have been acting pretty much the same way over the years, centuries, millenia it seems like. Probably since the beginning of time when you get right down to it. We just can’t seem to figure out good ways to get along with other people. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that we just can’t seem to figure out how to honor what God wants us to do. From what we read in the Bible it’s generally pretty clear what God wants from us, at least the basics of what God wants. Like that God wants us to love God and love one another. It’s the actual loving God and actually loving one another that we struggle with.
We’re seeing it firsthand in this country today. Politics is a cesspool of treating others badly. From what I see and hear it really doesn’t matter very much if you are conservative or liberal. It has almost become expected that you treat someone badly if they dare think differently than you do on any topic. It’s not limited to politics by any stretch of the imagination. I have five daughters and 10 grandkids. What I hear from them is that being a mom in today’s world is just waiting for someone to tell you how horrible you are as a parent for whatever thing you may have done. The real irony there is that it doesn’t actually matter what you’ve done. There is always someone who is happy to tell you are wrong. There are any number of areas in our life that this applies to.
Whether it be politics or parenting or any number of areas in our life, someone is not going to like what you think, say, or do and they’ll feel quite confident in telling you with all manner of righteous indignation how horrible you are for thinking, saying, or doing such a thing. And then you’ll be cut off from associating with them. Sometimes that is something we do to others. We tell others in great confidence and with all manner of righteous indignation how horrible they are for thinking, saying, or doing such a thing. And they we cut off our association with them. Neither of these situations is pleasing to God. Alienation is not what God desires for God’s children.
It’s easy to blame social media for this and certainly social media has played a role in allowing people to treat one another badly. But the real bottom line problem is that we humans don’t have a great track record for treating one another well, much less loving one another. I remember as a kid growing up on the farm that our party line phone was pretty handy in exchanging gossip. Taking it even farther back, in our reading today the psalmist seems to be saying even then that God already knows that we’re going to experience alienation from “those who hate me” (v4), from “my kindred and my mother’s children” (v8), and even from God (v17). The experience of alienation is a universal one and has been for quite some time.
I suppose it comes from the fact that we like to be right about everything. We have an opinion and we usually stick to it. I was listening to a podcast a couple of weeks ago, “This American Life” I think it was, and the commentator said that most of us like to think we reflect on something deeply, consider the evidence, and then come up with a decision based on that reflection and evidence. The truth is, research suggests that we already know what we think, we already have our strongly held opinion, and then we go find evidence to support ourselves.
Okay fine, all well and good, everyone has opinion. All well and good unless that opinion contradicts what God wants. And in this I think I would say the human condition hasn’t changed much. People from all time think we’re right and that’s all there is to it. People from all time love and appreciate God when God’s views align with ours. But we don’t often change our opinions just because God says so. People from all time try to change God to fit what it is we are thinking.
This is kind of backwards and this is why we need Jesus. If we had a complete and accurate understanding of God’s will, we would live out our lives perfectly and in accordance with God’s will. Life would be good, creation would be in balance, and everyone would move along happily and with great joy. Clearly, this is not how it works for any of us, at least not all the time. Even for the parts of God’s will we do understand, we sometimes struggle with living our lives that way.
Fortunately for us, God stands with us and in standing with us God came to us in Christ Jesus. Then Jesus was sacrificed on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Following that sacrifice Jesus was raised from the dead and in his resurrection we have the hope of eternal life.
This is the same hope the psalmist is relying on. Hope that whatever is going on in our lives, whatever alienation we are experiencing, God is present. God is presence in our lives is made manifest in the promises of forgiveness and in the promises of resurrection.
With God’s presence assured, we can, without fear, leave this place and live our lives as God wishes. Loving God and loving neighbor. Without alienation.