Don’t Mince Words

Marilyn Pagán-Banks

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. – Psalm 139:19-23, excerpts (NIV)

I am not at all surprised that theses verses from Psalm 139 were kept out of today’s Daily Readings for Year B. The Revised Common Lectionary often leaves them out as well.

Church folx are uncomfortable with this type of language.

However, in the wake of the violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol during which many marched under the banner of Christianity, I must say there is no time for word mincing. It is past time for church people to be willing to name a thing, a thing. If we are to truly bring about the kin-dom of God, we can’t keep the evil ideologies we know to be causing harm and death all around us out of our conversations, our analyses, our strategies, or our rituals.

Playing nice does nothing to stop evil. Our silence (denial, avoidance) makes us complicit.  Evil can only be eradicated when we—the church—are willing to face it head on.

The psalmist reminds us that the work is both external and internal.

Notice how the psalmist pauses his praise to give voice to the many ways evil impacts him. The psalmist boldly expresses how evil shapes him, the heart-wrenching and violent response it evokes from him. He honestly names the hate he feels and owns his feelings.

He does so not from a place of a place of shame or guilt, but with vulnerability and trust in God—committed to grounding himself and to be led by the love of the Creator.

Prayer
God, as we engage in spiritual warfare, help your church to never become so holy that we do not feel hate towards evil, nor so hateful that we lose sight of the power of your transformative love at work among us and through us. Amen.