Tomorrow is September 11, a date that stills makes me stop in my tracks, ~remember~, and grieve for those who lost their lives, their loved ones, and their livelihoods.
A beam from the World Trade Center,
installed as a memorial in a Charlottesville, VA Fire House
Although there is so much about that day I will never forget , I always remember how I happened to buy a new Bible that morning, and how I opened its pages even as I was glued to the news.
Do Not Fret Because Of Evil Men
It was Psalm 37 that caught my attention that day. It was not a Psalm I’d paid particular attention to before, but the words were so fitting:
Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the Lord
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
* * * * *
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret–it leads only to evil.
For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
* * * * *
The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.
* * * * *
I think I needed to hear that God would deal with the bad guys, and to be reminded that I should focus on doing good, even when it seems that people doing wrong are succeeding.
Leaving Room For God’s Wrath
I was reminded of Psalm 37 a few weeks ago, when our New Testament reading included this well-known passage from Romans 12: 19:
“Vengeance is mine,” … says the Lord.
Psalm 37 certainly suggests that we don’t need to fret over evil men because God will deal with them. But that well-known phrase is not the whole verse of Romans 12:19. The whole verse says:
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’
Giving it even more context, surrounding verses say:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
As I heard all of these verses, the thought came to me that they are telling us to to leave room for the wrath of God, because we, as humans, want wrongs to be avenged–we call it justice. On September 11, I certainly read Psalm 37 as assuring me that the evil men who plotted those attacks would get their due.
But the thought also came to me that if we leave room for God’s wrath–if we let God handle the situation–we also are leaving room for God’s mercy. And that left me wondering if that’s the real purpose behind these instructions. God wants us to refrain from seeking vengeance so He can mete out divine justice–which might mean treating some “evil men” with mercy.