By Aaron Elder
I thought enemies were simple. I’m good, they’re bad. They’re wrong, I’m right. And so I pray, “Lord, ‘break the teeth of the wicked.’” (NIV) I’m learning that enemies are far more complicated. I love that one, but you hate him. You love this one, but I hate him. Less than a month ago, the U.S. bombed Iran and killed General Qassem Soleimani. Because of his ties to terrorism in the Middle East, much of the western world rejoiced. But Gen. Soleimani wasn’t just a robot pushing buttons. He was a man with family and friends just like you and I. He thought that what he was doing was right. He was defending his people and his religion, and in his home country and in various parts of the world he was beloved.
I don’t have any personal ties to Gen. Soleimani, and my point isn’t to defend or accuse – I had no idea who he was until this bombing occurred. My point of emphasis is that Psalm 3 forces me to think differently about enemies.
If you’re like me, you may have missed who the characters are as this Psalm was penned. Take a minute to reread the introduction to the Psalm and let it sink in. The first character appears frequently in the Psalms, that’s King David. The second character we know a bit more abstractly as a wicked guy, that’s Absalom. David is fleeing Absalom. David is running from his own son.
Here is a challenging exercise. If you have a son (I do), take a few minutes to pull up some of your favorite memories – my son is 4 years old and he loves wrestling, snuggling, giggling and just being with his daddy. While those memories are fresh, read the Psalm again as though crying out to God against that very son.
I’m struggling to do this exercise myself.
What I see is a man, David, deeply grieved with a shattered heart. Absalom was once 4 years old, wrestling, laughing and playing with his daddy. How did we get here? Why is this happening? I picture David’s mind flooded with memories of his son. I don’t picture a man defiant, but prostrate on the ground sobbing as he prays, “Lord, ‘break the teeth of the wicked.’” (NIV)
Jesus calls me to be committed to justice. To defend the helpless against the wicked. This Psalm is one I can and should pray in a world where all has not yet been made right. But Jesus also calls me to love my enemies. I will fail to love them well if I fail to remember that my enemies are men like me.