Best of Daily Reflections: Paying Back Your Enemies
LORD, have mercy on me. Make me well again, so I can pay them back!
Have you ever wanted to get even with those who have wronged you? Perhaps with a coworker whose slander cost you a promotion? Or perhaps even with your spouse or sibling? It's a natural human instinct to want to inflict pain on those who have hurt us. In fact, we see this very thing in Psalm 41.
In this psalm, David laments both his physical illness and the mistreatment he has received from his enemies. They "say nothing but evil" about him (v. 5). They pretend to be his friends, but gossip about him (v. 6). They speak as if his disease is fatal (v. 8). Worse still, even David's best friend has turned against him (v. 9). In response to all of this cruelty, David prays, "LORD, have mercy on me. Make me well again, so I can pay them back!" (v. 10).
Here, once again, is an example of what I love about the Psalms. They are so honest. They don't pretend to be falsely pious. They tell the truth about the human heart. David wants to pay back those who have wronged him, and he wants God to make him well so that he can do it. It's important to note that Psalm 41:10 does not teach us that it's right to return evil for evil when people mistreat us. Rather, this verse encourages us to pour out our hearts to God without holding back. As we tell God the truth about ourselves, we invite him to touch our lives and transform our hearts.
Jesus reveals that such transformation is not only possible, but also normative in the kingdom of God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also" (Matt. 5:38-39). On the cross, he modeled this posture of grace when he asked his Father to forgive those who were crucifying him (Luke 23:34).
When people wrong us, sometimes we will be able to imitate Jesus right from the start. But, often, we will need to begin where David began, praying for payback. Yet, as we open our hearts to the Lord, the Holy Spirit helps us to be like Jesus, offering forgiveness and hungering for reconciliation.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How do you respond to David's prayer in Psalm 41:10? Have you ever prayed like this? Have you ever wanted to pray like this, but held back? Are there people in your life right now who have wronged you or are wronging you? Are you able to be honest with God about how you feel about them and your situation?
PRAYER: Gracious God, how I thank you for the blunt honesty of the Psalms. You have not given us a guide to prayer that has been edited to remove all of the grittiness and raw humanity. Rather, you have allowed us to peer into the souls of real people who are often struggling to live in a genuine relationship with you and with others. Thank you for this marvelous gift.
When people wrong me, I pray for the grace to be like Jesus. Yet, I also pray for the grace to be honest with you, to pour out my heart, to allow you to transform my soul through the Spirit.
I pray today, Lord, for all who are wrestling with the implications of Psalm 41, especially for those who have been wronged and are struggling to forgive. Help them to be honest with you. Reach out to them with compassion and your transformative grace. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.