A Warning to the Righteous: Reflections on Psalm 4

It is fine, perhaps even laudatory, to be furious in the face of what one thinks is unrighteousness. The world is ever in need of those who are willing to confront the bigotries and hatreds of the world whose number is always legion and whose confronters are too often few. But in that confrontation, how easy is it to denigrate, to implicate, to attempt to annihilate those seen as enemies! I have engaged in this practice more than once in my own ministry. I have long and passionately argued that my denomination's rejection of LGBTQ persons as potential leaders in our churches is wrong, biblically and humanly. And I have more than once confronted Christian people who disagree with me, treating them as not simply in error but evil and dangerous bigots who need my enlightenment, my wisdom, my knowledge. But what have I done? I have entered into the spirit of Psalm 4; I am righteous, so God hears only my prayer. Of course, I know I am right and they are wrong, and I am always ready to say so. Perhaps I need a strong dose of YHWH's words of Psalm 4:4-5.

My anger may be justified, says YHWH, but the danger is that sin, a literal "missing of the mark," may follow as I shower my fury on a fellow Christian and forget completely that she is a child of God as I am. I need more alone time, on my bed, so that I may learn when to shut up, the quite literal reading of the verb at the end of verse 4. Once I then can see again that those who disagree are human beings, worthy to be treated as such, I can again offer a "right sacrifice," or perhaps " a sacrifice of the right" and put my trust in YHWH, and not in my own rightness.

Please hear me clearly. This is no call to be wishy-washy about core beliefs and convictions. The world desperately needs our passions about the multiple wrongs we see. But the world also needs our passion about the children whom God has made and redeemed. We need more holy confrontation and less angry confrontational assaults on one another. As Easter people, we must strive to live in a community that seeks both justice and love, the community that the risen Christ calls us to.

12/2/2022 9:10:30 PM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.
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