By Mark+ Walz
Morning prayer from today had us in psalm 71. It is a psalm about being unjustly accused and attacked, to the point of feeling desperation; to the point of going to prayer for relief. Ever been there? Ever said a prayer like this?
4“Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.”
Maybe not recently, but, if you are anything like me, you get defensive real quick when you are attacked or are confronted verbally. And I think it natural for us when accused to defend ourselves by pointing to our past deeds. We try to defend our case by way of righteous indignation. (By the way, I really like that phrase, righteous indignation; but I especially like the way it feels in the moment)
But I noticed the psalmist does not do this. Instead, he points people to the righteousness of God. This is his defense!
16“With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone”.
But this makes sense as Christians, when you think about it. Because our righteousness is a by-product of God’s, not a by-product of our deeds or actions. Even our best deeds are likely full of selfish motivation, manipulation, probably based on incomplete knowledge, and ultimately imperfect, in application and thought! In short, even when unjustly accused we are never wholly innocent.
This is why its best to operate when attacked by leaning upon the gospel. Really, any time we are in conflict, we ought to trust in the framework of the gospel for our defense. For the gospel is the connection to the real righteousness available to us when we need defending. It is the gospel that creates a real path for reconciliation in conflict.
When I say “lean upon the gospel” I mean simply to approach the conflict or accusation in the same way we were reconciled to God. For the truth is that we were broken and imperfect, so much so that Christ died that we might be whole and we might be made perfect. The gospel then is this, repent and believe.
So if the gospel says, “repent and believe in me, for the kingdom of God is at hand,” then approaching your accuser the same way is the answer. Simply saying, ‘I am sorry, please forgive me’ does infinitely more to both resolve conflict and defend yourself. Regardless of whether they accept the offer of reconciliation or not, you have been set free. You are being made right by leaning on God’s right-ness — His righteousness — and not your own.
Try it next time. Instead of holding up the righteousness of your past actions, lean upon the gospel. The righteousness of God found in the gospel is a much better defense, I assure you. As a pastor with many a righteous deed in my life (note the sarcasm), leaning upon them or pointing them out to my wife or children does not help in our conflict.
Besides, maybe your accuser will be reminded then of the great deeds of God and not the pride in you. Maybe they will see again the righteousness made available through the perfect forgiveness of God and have compassion for you as well.