Six feet above contradiction

15 08 2011

There’s a saying that the vicar/minister/pastor of a church uses a pulpit to preach so that he will be six feet above contradiction.  But what do we do when we hit contradiction full on?

I have smacked into contradiction today in my reading.  Psalm 18:30-50 is a celebration by King David of his deliverance from his enemies.  On one level it is a song of praise to God for his protection and victory, but it includes David’s chilling words, “I chased my enemies and caught them; I did not stop until they were conquered.  I struck them down so they could not get up…I have destroyed all who hate me.” 

How does that sit with Romans 12:20, quoting Proverbs 25:21-22, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink…”?

I don’t know how to hold these two things together.  I wonder if David had special dispensation because he was the king, God’s anointed ruler.   I wonder if his enemies were so evil that they deserved their comeuppance.  But even if people are evil, is it right to pray for their destruction?  Can we love people and hate what they’re doing?  And many more questions besides.

My dilemma is deepened by reading a section from Andrew White’s book the Vicar of Baghdad.  Andrew lives in the midst of contradictions and works out his faith in the arena of Middle East conflict as a negotiator and peacemaker.  This is what I read this morning; he quotes the above words from Romans 12 before adding –

“So much of my time is spent with unpleasant people, and so before I approach them I simply pray, ‘Lord, help me to love them!’

There are times when it is very difficult to love, when you feel you have given so much and got nothing in return.  Especially this is so in long-running hostage negotiations.  Sometimes I feel angry as I make my way to a meeting, but I know that, if there is to be any prospect of progress, that anger must give way to love.  In all my dealings with terrorists, it has been clear that they want something; but I often have nothing to give them but love.  This is in itself a form of sharing Jesus.  So we love, love and love and pray, pray and pray, and hope, hope and hope that change will be brought through the glory of God.”

I am encouraged by Andrew’s writing, by his honesty about his struggles to take the Bible seriously.  I need to think about my responses – how good am I at living out what I read, even when it doesn’t make sense?  How good am I at living in the tension and sharing Jesus?

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