Rejection, with Contention
Sometimes, it isn't just enough for someone to experience rejection. We know they don't fit in. We know their presence upsets our apple cart. We know that in order for things to get back to the desired "way things used to be" that they have to go. Something has to be done. Someone has to do something. Most important, the person who is causing our discomfort needs to be put away...
The problem? Getting rid of the irritant winds up not being enough. They have to know they are being "gotten rid of" and we need to know that their rejection doesn't just expel. It destroys, because if they are out there the narrative we have constructed to preserve our sense of ourselves will always be under threat.
That is the other side of the events being depicted in Psalm 109. Our psalmist is under threat, and the rejection being experienced is also being focused on ending our protagonist. It's rejection, with contention, and it is compounded by prejudice and enmity. There is no love being lost, not at all...and little love being spared. God's agency is to intervene and preserve the life of the target. Mercy means survival, at best.
This is not an easy place to live. It leaves a body broken. It wreaks relationships. It shatters families.
And it fails to accomplish the one thing it set out to do...protect the status quo that the target of antagonism was somehow threatening to disrupt. Everyone winds up wounded, exhausted and scarred. More than almost anything else, this interpersonal social violence works to reveal more of our root, sinful nature to God and to each other. We don't shine as human beings when we are locked in this messy, all-in self-destruction.
What prevails against this awful construct? Mercy, love and a willingness to connect to each other as we are. As the crowds gather around Jesus, as John wonders publicly from prison if Jesus is "the One" we hear the Christ calling us all out. Are we ready to embrace a kingdom where our habit of interpersonal rejection, with contention is the thing we cannot bring with us? Are we ready to let go of the pride, the certainty, the defensiveness to follow a God whose focus is on our restoration to wholeness and holiness of life? Are we ready to take on and shoulder the yoke that Jesus proclaims is easy, to assume the burden that is "light?"
We are when we begin to choose to focus on being healed in relationship with each other as our primary focus. We are ready when we being to choose NOT to reject, with contention the people who irritate us, who upset our apple carts. We are ready when we look around and realize that others' pain is our own pain...and their joy is our joy.
Then, we are ready.....