I call on the Lord in my distress,
and he answers me.
Save me, Lord,
from lying lips
and from deceitful tongues.
This psalmist is living in a land far from Jerusalem (verse 5) surrounded by people who hate peace (verse 6) and therefore, most likely, hate God and His people too.
We don’t really live in a country like that. Despite our difficulties and frustrations in South Africa, we are still far better off than many, many others. And as Christians, we should not take for granted the freedoms we have here to worship and proclaim Jesus Christ. May this be a reminder for us to pray for those who don’t have those same privileges and who live under constant threat because of what they believe.
Having said that, we can, and do, encounter people who wish to oppose us—whether it’s because we are a Christian and the message we preach is an offence to them, or because they just don’t like us for whatever reason. It might be a work colleague bad-mouthing you to your other colleagues and your boss with the goal of sabotaging your career, it might be an old friend spreading untrue and hurtful things about you to turn people away from you, or it might be a relative pulling your family apart by how they speak about you with the others. While not nearly on the same level as what Christians face in the Middle East or North Korea, these are real examples of suffering and persecution—and it can hurt.
We must respond in two ways.
Firstly, as we’ve seen in 1 John over the last few days, we must love them and show God’s love to them, even when it hurts. Jesus commands us to ‘love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]’ (Matthew 5:44). Paul instructs us to ‘not repay anyone evil for evil’ and to ‘not take revenge… but leave room for God’s wrath’ with the goal that we might ‘overcome evil with good’ (Romans 12:17, 19, 21).
But sometimes, try as we might, we just aren’t able to win them over with love. So, our other response is to call out to God like this psalmist and to ask Him for deliverance. The Psalms are full of prayers for judgment on God’s enemies (eg. Psalms 58, 69, 109). Our struggles with our colleagues and difficult family members are definitely not on the same scale as the enemies Israel faced or what some other Christians experience, nevertheless, we can trust that God will deal with all the injustice of this world against His people—if not now (which He may do), then certainly at Jesus return.
So, let’s pray for them that they might turn to God before it’s too late. Let’s pray that we will love even those who make life difficult for us. And let’s pray that God will deliver us from our distress and our fellow believers who face much harsher persecution.