Exiles in a Foreign Land – Psalm 120
“Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace.”Psalm 120:6
The verse quoted above from Psalm 120 could have been penned today. The climate in which we find ourselves is one of seemingly perpetual conflict. There are the constant political conflicts, the standoff between vaxers and antivaxers, the agitation between the pro-life and pro-choice camps, and dozens of other causes around which sides are drawn. And never shall the twain meet in civil conversation. Too long has it been since we could live in harmony and peace with those who differ from us. The Honorable Craig Horn, a former member of the North Carolina General Assembly, in a 2018 commencement ceremony at South Piedmont Community College, offered the following observation to those who were about to graduate:
We love it when public leaders stand tall, but only when they stand tall for what we believe. We love it when our elected officials cast an unpopular vote, but only if that vote agrees with our own. And we cheer on the one that marches to a different drummer, but only when we hear the same music. These days we disagree on just about everything: racial issues, immigration issues, bathroom issues, healthcare law, same-sex marriage, and who should be president. Sadly, we do this with rants, screams, interruptions, street protests that are increasingly violent, and personal attacks that are increasingly virulent. We not only have our own opinions, but we also seem to have our own facts. These disagreements can make us more hoarse, but they seldom make us more smart. They rarely sharpen our thinking much less change our minds. The result is that we no longer can even have discussions about issues on which we disagree.
We are citizens of the New Jerusalem, but we are resident in the city of this secular world. In his letter to the exiles in Babylon, the prophet Jeremiah said, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:4-7). We are to pray for THIS city. And Solomon reminds us that “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.He who belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent” (Prov. 11:11-12). And St. Peter exhorts us to “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17). But sadly, in the current political climate, it has become commonplace for Christians to curse the current office-holders, whether president, senator, representative, state governor, or city mayor. Yet, Scripture commands that we not speak evil of a ruler of the people (Exodus 22:28; Acts 23:5).
The Psalmist was in exile in the midst of a people who hated peace. But he continued to pursue peace. He said, “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.” That is not unlike the present circumstances in this country. These may be evil times, but Jesus knows that, and He gives us a clear directive to follow: “I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:39-45). Let us, then, follow this pattern for peace!