Boko Haram, a Muslim extremist group in Nigeria, butchers Christians. “Butchers” isn’t too strong of a word; it’s morbidly accurate as the group slices and hacks at the bodies of the non-Muslims. They stop only long enough to determine if the sufferer is ready to renounce Christ and pledge allegiance to Allah. You can read more at VOM’s article, “You can’t kill my soul,” but I warn you that it might make you feel something – a churning of the stomach, a shudder of the spine, an inexplicable urge to fall to your knees and pray for someone in a far off land.
Evil is nothing new; persecution began when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s resulting in Cain’s murderous assault on Abel (Genesis 4:1-12). Nevertheless, it is part of our current world. How do we face it? How do we respond to bloody stories that don’t fit with our comfortable church-pew Christianity?
I found some help – even some encouragement – in Psalm 37. I hope you’ll take a minute to read it now; all you have to do is click on the link. (Can I be honest here for a second and point out that a lot of people in this world would weep tears of joy for such easy access to the word of God?)
We’re going to take a look at Psalm 37 over the next four weeks. This article will consider who we are, the next two weeks we’ll look at what we do and what God does, and then the fourth week we’ll discuss the outcome.
I pulled this list of characteristics out of the text of the chapter. Let me start by saying that I dealt with some serious conviction while I did so. You know what I mean – those “Ouch” moments when you read God’s Word and the Spirit points out somewhere deep inside that you aren’t quite living up to what God is asking of you. Yeah, those. But here we go –
When confronted with evil, a child of God is…
37:1, 7, 8 – Not agitated. A confrontation with evil shouldn’t make us burn with anger. That’s hard, isn’t it? When I read the above article from VOM about the beheading of a little boy, anger burned within me. By all accounts, evil is spreading and prospering. Earthly armies can’t stop it but eventually Christ will. Trust me, evil doesn’t prosper and find victory in the end.
37:1 – Not envious. At first thought, why would we be envious of evildoers? But, let me admit, envy flickered in my mind when I found out the ISIS army has $2,000,000 a day in income just from the oil fields they’ve conquered. But again, their success is temporary.
37:6 – Righteousness that shines like the dawn. This isn’t me showing off all my good works to make sure everyone sees them. My righteousness is in Christ; if it shines like the dawn then that is Him in me shining out to the world. That’s a good thing.
37:8 – Not angry nor enraged, in addition to not agitated. Keep the breathing under control; don’t spew words of poison. Stay steady. If you believe God is in control then you should be under control.
37:11 – Humble. Remember, Christ’s righteousness shines through us, not our own goodness. Honestly, we don’t have any goodness on our own anyway. He’s in control. As a child of God, we lay aside our own pride and positions to advance His kingdom.
37:18 – Blameless. We’re not perfect; we’re not sinless. The idea behind being blameless is to be complete or whole. Christ in us – His joy and love manifested in us – completes us.
37:21, 26 – Gracious and giving. We can’t hold tight to what God has given us. When we see evil, our response is to help, reach out, give, and extend grace to those who hurt as a result.
37:22 – Blessed by God. God chose to look on us in favor. He chose to come before us with the greatest gift possible – the life of His Son. He chose to restore us through the sacrifice of that Son. We are blessed.
37:30, 31 – Wise, just, and know God’s instruction. This is another one we can only claim because Christ works in us and through us. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
37:37 – Man of peace. Evil – characterized by pride, anger, rage, greed, and foolishness – leads to restlessness, destruction, and death. But a child of God knows peace even in the midst of evil.
I don’t know about you, but this list will stay with me this week as I see evil become more prevalent in our world. All of these characteristics are contrary to how the world says we should live. If we can implement them in our lives, we can make a difference. We can live the difference. We can shine the righteousness of Christ in a world of darkness.
Please click here for the next article in the series.