The Two Ways
1 How happy is the man
who does not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path of sinners
or join a group of mockers!
2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted beside streams of water
that bears its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
4 The wicked are not like this;
instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not survive the judgment,
and sinners will not be in the community of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.
Our new pastor preached on this passage yesterday. It was a good first sermon choice I think as what he taught said a lot about him. One of the things that popped out of his sermon was that this is not an excuse to engage in an Us vs. Them mentality. He admits that a poem this reductionist can and certainly does lead to black and white thinking. He encouraged us though to remember that the Gospel is not an excuse to gloat or to talk about how much more righteous we are than the Other.
This poem leads me instead to think about my own “chaff-ness” and how far I have to journey (and have journeyed) in my relationship with God towards becoming a tree and bearing life giving fruit. The reader still needs to deal with the first verse though. When it come to relationships with those who disagree with us, and in some cases are actively in opposition to what we believe, I think this urges caution.
Without question, we are to pursue relationships with non-believers. I have a lot of acquaintances and a few dear friends who think that the concept of religion in general and Christianity in particular are harmful at worst and wacky at best. Still, I seek out time with them. I don’t believe for a second that I’ll “convert” them. I’m not sure that’s my job. I do want to love them and bless them. Clearly I’m commanded to do those things (not that that’s why I do them), and so I do. There’s something sweet though in fellowship with believers. We can talk about things from a place of mutual understanding/benefit. And I know when I’m studying scripture, not just to prove a point or write a blog post, there’s healing that can happen and some serious thought provoking time.
This passage also talks about consequences, ultimate ones. It’s here where I will freely admit to being in uncomfortable territory. Whether this is talking about temporal or eternal repercussions for your beliefs, it’s not something I like to dwell on. On the one hand I suppose it could lead to gratitude for being in the tree category. We haven’t earned our “tree-ness”. The flip side of that in my mind is that likewise, the “chaff” haven’t earned their status either. They’re just being what the world made them to be. And yet there are severe costs if they don’t make it. I would have liked to hear Giorgio talk more about that as he winds his way through the Psalms, especially in light of our Assurance this week:
1 John 2:2 My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the Righteous One. 2 He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.