Lent 4 – And the Self-righteous Shall Inherit…

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1Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people;
from those who are deceitful and unjust
deliver me!
2For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you cast me off?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because of the oppression of the enemy?

~Psalm 43.1-2 (NRSV)

I seek refuge in a God that is beyond my understanding, no matter how hard I try to understand and feel it is incumbent upon me, as pastor of a congregation, to explain to the world. I ask God to bless what I do, even when I know what I do may be wrong, or at least on the border of wrong. I claim my own righteousness, despite knowing that more often than I would like to admit my ego has caused me to do and say things that could be construed as deceitful (notice my own hesitation in even admitting this).

I love this Psalm because of the author’s utter dependence upon God. But I struggle with the author’s sense of self-righteousness, only because I can see in my own self-righteousness a denial of God’s ways. Even in the question of “Why have you cast me off?” I hear in my heart a failure to recognize the constant and abiding presence of God in all circumstances. That is certainly not to say God causes all circumstances—our own selfish motives can often cause our struggles and catastrophes. Regardless, God is present to us even in our own deceitful activities, trying desperately to call us to another way. I can look back and see when I have been blind and deaf to God’s callings, and pray that I may be more aware. And when things are not going as I think they should, to recognize my own part in making those things happen, or, even better, recognize that maybe my way is not the only way and try to see what God could be doing regardless.

Jesus challenged his disciples to love their enemies. In this Lenten season, I am wondering if there really are “enemies.” More often than not, people have reasons for their behavior. If someone seeks to destroy me or challenge me, I may want to ask myself: “Why?” Is there something I did to set them off? Is there anything I can do to rectify their perceived wrong, whether real and valid in my mind or not?


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