Doing Righteously with Indignation

The following is an adaptation of copyrighted material, used with permission, from my book, “God Breathed: Connecting Through Scripture to God, Others, the Natural World, and Yourself” (Crown and Covenant, 2019). For a much fuller engagement of the topic, please see chapter 10.

This post is dedicated with respect and sorrow to the memory of Ahmaud Arbery.

There isn’t profanity strong enough to cuss it all out when we experience life’s most cursed realities. God knows this. So, as Dr. Michael Lefebvre puts it, “…there are psalms that lead us in our speech to God in times of violent desecration.” - from Dr. Michael Lefebvre’s unpublished March, 2003 paper, “Psalm 137,”p.13. See also Dr. Lefebvre’s outstanding book, Singing the Songs of Jesus: Revisiting the Psalms (Fearn, Ross-shire 2010) especially chapter 6.

Some of God’s songs are “imprecatory” – they call God’s judgment down upon those who relentlessly and unrepentantly pursue evil. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that “under the sun” there is a time for love and a time for hate. The imprecatory Psalms (see Psalms 94 and 109 as particularly instructive examples) provide the healthy, holy expression of righteous hatred and the desire for retributive justice.

But doesn’t Jesus say to turn the other cheek? Yes, indeed (Matthew 5:39). When someone slaps us in the face, we can overlook the offense (Proverbs 19:11). Jesus peaches against a retaliatory mindset born of self-righteousness and wounded pride. He tells us to have an open door in our hearts for all people, but he never tells us to become doormats for anyone. In the face of injustice, the imprecatory Psalms let our souls walk a biblical path between sinful activity and sinful passivity.