O Sovereign LORD, my strong deliverer, who shields my head in the day of battle—do not grant the wicked their desires, O LORD; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud. Let the heads of those who surround me be covered with the trouble their lips have caused. Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise…may disaster hunt down men of violence (Psalm 140:7-11).
On the back of a Special Forces cap are the words: “WE DO BAD THINGS TO BAD PEOPLE.” Those words disturb some folks. They anger others. They confuse still others. But there are some who understand. King David would be among this last group. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he penned the words of Psalm 140, which calls for bad things to happen to bad people.
Some claim this goes against the directive of Jesus: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If
anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39). Some would argue that there is no such group as “good people,” since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. They point to the words of Jesus saying only those who have no sin should throw the first stone of punishment (Cf. John 8:7). This would eliminate everyone.
But Scripture must always interpret Scripture. The words of Jesus do not mean that evil, and
the people who carry it out, are never to be fought against. That would be a misapplication of
God’s Word. In both Old and New Testaments, God has spoken clearly about protecting human lives. He charges rulings powers to protect its citizens. He authorizes the use of extreme force to provide that defense. Those doing bad things—carrying out evil against others—are to be stopped. They have forfeited the goodwill of others. Sometimes they forfeit their very lives. There is a famous saying that declares, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmund Burke—1770).
That is not a Bible passage, but it does reflect biblical teaching. “Good” can mean sinless, but it does not need to. It can also indicate those who are standing up for what is right and good. Sometimes this is called, “being on the side of the angels.” “Bad people” can refer to those who stand for what is bad. That is the side of the demons. Those who serve their nation in defense of its people are authorized and expected to take a stand against those doing evil.
King David placed himself with the forces for good. When he wrote, “Let burning coals fall upon them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise…may disaster hunt down men of violence.” he was asking the Lord to prevent the triumph of evil. He prayed that bad things would happen to bad people. The anniversary of 9/11 reminds us that we may have prayed the same.
Jesus addressed a different type of situation with his words about turning the other cheek. The
slap on the cheek is a personal affront. It’s an insult. The natural reaction to that is to seek
revenge. We want payback. But then, shameful acts will escalate. Demons will cheer. Jesus reminds us that vengeance belongs to God. We can put up with those who dishonor us. We can shake off their attacks. We can walk away. But we cannot ignore our duty to protect others. We will risk our lives to do that. We will fight against those who threaten with evil designs. We will call upon God to aid us in that fight.
We will take our stand with King David on the side of the angels.
We pray: Eternal and holy God, we know that we are sinful creatures who live in a sinful world.
But we also know that the sacrifice of Jesus has liberated us from the death-grip of sin. We are
now free to serve you by serving others who need our help. Keep us from abusing the power
that you have given to us. Bless our efforts to overcome evil. Keep our feet on the holy path.
Keep us on the side of the angels. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military