Wake up! Rise to my defense!
Take up my case, my God and my Lord.
Psalm 35:23 (NLT)
“Oh, you’re that guy,” the kid said after I’d introduced myself. “I’ve heard about you!”
“Really?” I asked in surprise. “What have you heard?”
Nothing true, as it turned out. I was a bit shocked to learn what the ubiquitous “they” had said about me. It was high school and I was in the stands at a football game. Having struck up a conversation with the stranger from the opposing school sitting next to me, I learned an important life lesson that night. One that I can still remember thirty years later.
I was angry and hurt at what the stranger had told me. I wanted names. I wanted details. I wanted to hunt down those who’s said those things about me and give them a piece of my mind. I wanted to shout from the bleachers my innocence and prove that my accusers were wrong. Mount a defense! Start a campaign!!
And then it sunk in how difficult and fruitless the task would be. How silly would I look? What a waste of my time and energy. I began to realize a hard fact of life. You can’t control what others say about you. You can only control what you yourself think, say, and do. As my fit of internal rage and teenaged angst subsided, I settled in and finished a polite conversation with my new acquaintance.
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. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
As difficult as I’ve found it when I know an occasional untruth is said about me, I can’t imagine what it’s like for politicians and celebrities who are constantly in the public eye and who face unjust daily attacks from all sides. King David, who wrote the lyrics in today’s psalm, certainly knew the hard fact of life better than I.
Today I’m reminded that vengeance belongs to God. Like David, I’m called on not to return insult for insult, nor even answer my accusers, but to make my appeal for justice to our heavenly Advocate and Judge.