Psalm 101 - I will sing of loyalty and justice
Of David. A psalm.
1) I will sing of loyalty and of justice;
to you, O Lord, I will sing.
2) I will study the way that is blameless.
When shall I attain it?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
3) I will not set before my eyes
anything that is base.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
4) Perverseness of heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.
5) One who secretly slanders a neighbor
I will destroy.
A haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not tolerate.
6) I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
so that they may live with me;
whoever walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me.
7) No one who practices deceit
shall remain in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue in my presence.
8) Morning by morning I will destroy
all the wicked in the land,
cutting off all evildoers
from the city of the Lord.
Psalm 101 (NRSV*)
"I will sing of loyalty and of justice; to you, O Lord, I will sing. I will study the way that is blameless."
So often we focus our attention on the counter-example. We see injustice and deceit and condemn it. We talk amongst ourselves about how bad those evildoers are. We can become preoccupied with evil, and it is understandable, since it is scandalous, and has terrible effects on people and communities.
Yet there are problems with this attitude. With a focus on others' wrongdoing, we may neglect our own self-examination and self-direction. (Sometimes we see the speck in their eye but not the log in ours.) Still more importantly, time spent attending to the deceitful, the arrogant and perverse, is time spent away from study of the way that is blameless.
In addition to the direct damage they do, our preoccupation with enemies can derail us. Have you ever ridden a bicycle and seen a pothole ahead in the road? The surest way to hit the pothole is to fix your attention on it. If you want to avoid the pothole, fix your attention on the smooth road to either side of the obstacle.
We talk about the importance of positive role models for children, but why do we not take the same advice as adults?
This psalm does. "I will not set before my eyes anything that is base." It knows the danger of contamination. Evil and righteousness are both contagious, examples of a ways to follow. But these are very different journeys. You cannot walk two roads at the same time.
The works of those who fall away shall not cling to me. Instead, I will look upon the faithful, let them minister to me, let them live with me. Deceit and lies will no longer be part of me. I will offer no hospitality to wrong. Instead "I will sing of loyalty and of justice; to you, O Lord, I will sing. I will study the way that is blameless."
Can we destroy the wicked and evildoers, as the psalm vows? We know quite well that we cannot do so by using the tools of wickedness. we are not called to go forth and slay every bit of evil in the world. Instead, morning by morning, we are to starve the forces of evil in our lives, seeking to give in no place, no power, no dominion in our lives. In faith, we call upon God to support and defend us. As the traditional prayer goes, "Let your holy angels have charge of us, that the wicked one have no power over us."
Staff Sgt. Katie Gar Ward. U.S. Army Pfc. Kyra White sings during the 2014 Army Soldier Show at Fort Eustis, VA, 24 June 2014. The work is in the public domain, taken by a U.S. Government employee in the performance of their duties.
* New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.