So often we get this backwards in our society, believing God calls us to fight and defend God’s honor. So we raise Cain about the Bible and Christianity being in dishonor, waging little culture wars with others around us. Mostly those are non-violent, but at times they sure do break out in violence – not just the violence of terrorists from the Middle East (which is an expression of this same desire to defend God) but also in home-grown acts of violence and discrimination.
God does not call us to defend God here, as if God is a helpless child in need of a grownup like us to take her or him by the hand, lead them to safety, and run off her or his bullies. No, God is depicted as able to take care of Her or Himself here. God’s more the Joan of Arc with the sword against the invading armies or the King David with his sling against Goliath than the helpless child in need of our help. God can handle this, and God’s commitment is to defend us. We are the ones like children oft lost on the way.
There are so many areas in our life we can feel assaulted and threatened. Some Christians feel threatened now because they say society moving away from their picture of Christianity and wonder, is there a future for them? Others feel threatened because of conflict in their own families, maybe children whose future looks uncertain or marriages and partnerships that seem to be about to implode. I know in my own state people of color, women, the poor, and people with disabilities all feel threatened by regressive policies. Attempts at voter suppression, slashing of programs for the poor, racially charged gerrymandering, and many other seeming threats have powerful people pushing them forward.
I am reminded as I read this verse that though I must do all I can do to continue to work for justice, work for a compassionate society, my job really isn’t to fight a battle. It is to be a witness, to tell the story of my own experience and also the experience of those hurting in the face of injustice. I must do my part, but ultimately I must trust that the battle belongs to the Lord.
If I am faithful, I can trust that God will defend the cause of the poor, the downtrodden, the outcast, the forgotten. Me raising my voice, casting my vote, contacting my representatives, are all part of my part. But that can be witness not warfare. God, however, can through the Spirit work victory in the midst of seeming defeat.
May it be so, Lord. May it be so.
And I ain’t whistling Dixie,
Your progressive redneck preacher,