How many pastors and teachers teach that the Imprecatory Psalms do not apply to Christians today? I know I’ve heard that many times. Those authorities may invalidate these Psalms by saying that, “because Christians are under a new covenant and those Psalms are under the Old Covenant, therefore Christians cannot pray them.” Or, they teach that “Christianity is marked by grace and love. Therefore, calling down curses just cannot fit in Christianity because that is not very loving or gracious.” They’ll use passages like the Good Samaritan – passages that demonstrate how love your enemies – to say that wanting justice is somehow a sin.
However, if Christians cannot pray the Imprecatory Psalms, then we can have no assurance of salvation and no faith.
This sounds radical, I know. Let me explain.
In modern Christianity, there is one idea that is thrown around a lot. This idea says that God does not ultimately care for what His people are going through; rather He only cares about His plan moving forward. He’s looking for a few good soldiers.
Before you write me off, let me show you how this idea creeps into modern Christianity.
How many pastors have said God wants what’s best for you — not what you want? As if somehow your best is contrary to your wants, or is contrary to your welfare? They will never say that God is trying to destroy you, but that He is”putting you through trials to make you into a better Christian.” I’ve even heard this said that God will keep putting you through the same trial until you deal with it well enough.
How many “Christian” or “Bible” teachers have taught in some way or another that Christians are inherently bad? That Christians are to look at their sin, contemplate their sin, be broken over their sin, constantly bring their sin to God, and eternally micro-analyze themselves because their evil sin nature is constantly banging on the door and letting itself in? How many teachers have taught that Christians become the scum of the earth after being saved – “the worst of all sinners”? That the holiest Christians are the ones that see and are constantly aware of the full depths of their sin? That the most mature Christians are the ones who realize they are the furthest from God?
How many Christians hold as saintliness this idea that God calls Christians to stay in dangerous, abusive, or even life-threatening situations to try and “love the difficult person into the kingdom? As if God could not care less about the suffering Christian, but rather only cares that the lost person be saved?
Do any of these sound familiar? This is all from the same root: God does not care about Christians.
He does not care for their health. He does not care for their livelihood. He does not care for any aspect of the Christian. He could not care less if the Christian stubbed a toe or lost a limb. As long as it was “for the kingdom” or “the advancement of the Gospel”, or “in pursuit of holiness” or any other common Christianese phrases.
He only cares that His plan moves forward. He cares that His plan is enacted — even on the backs of His slaves – sorry, Christians – who are expendable, filthy, depravely sinful human beings. This idea comes across in preaching many times, though never as blatant as I’ve made it to be. (And people wonder why churches are dying).
However, the Christians that spout this also teach that God loves us, because as John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Somehow God loves us, but does not care about us. He may care about how He can use us, but not about us as people.
This is absolute nonsense!
Let me ask you a question: suppose a man says that he loves his children dearly. He waxes eloquent about how much he loves them. He talks until he’s blue in the face convincing everyone that he loves them so much.
Then he does not drive them to soccer practice. He does not spend time with them. He does not encourage them. He hardly ever speaks with them – usually only to scold them. He does not provide for any of their needs. He only has contact with them when they have done something wrong and he needs to correct them. He only speaks to them when he has some chores that he doesn’t want to do, so he can make them do the dirty work.
In a nutshell, he does not care for them. Even though he says he loves them.
But does this man really love his children? Is this what love does?
Or, let’s have another example. Suppose someone talks your ear off, telling you about how much this person loves his pets. He’ll spend every waking moment telling anyone that will listen how much he loves these animals. His phone is chock full of pictures of all of his pets.
But he never cleans up after them. He never puts food in the bowls. He never puts water in the bowls. He never pets them. He hardly interacts with them – only to scold them when they do wrong.
In a nutshell, he does not care for his pets, even though he says he loves them.
Is this love?
One last example for Christians. Pastors teach that Christians are to love the wicked. (Yes the Bible does say not to enact vengeance, and it says to help a wounded or hurting person even if they are your enemy). Now, let’s say that a Christian spouts to everyone that he loves the wicked. He will say repeatedly that he loves them so much. Or they will use this generic phrase, “I love everybody! No matter who they are or what they’ve done.”
But he does nothing when he sees someone bruised and bloodied, lying in the gutter. He does nothing when someone needs help. He does not even give to charities that help the hurting.
Does this person really have love?
What I’m getting at is that it is impossible to love someone, but not care for them. Caring for someone or something is a natural result of love. There can be no care without love.
Who says he cherishes an antique, then leaves it on the front porch exposed to the elements?
Who says he treasures a movie or CD, then never even bothers to bring it in from the car after he buys it?
In the same way, how can God love us but not care for us? If He does not care for Christians at all, then He does not love us.
You cannot say, though, that God is different. No one can say that “because He is God, He can do whatever He wants” If God were different in that He could love – but not care for – something, then why would it be wrong for Christians to act that way? Does that mean that there are two categories of what is good, and that God is holding us to a different standard than He holds Himself to? Does God even hold Himself to a standard? Is it okay for Christians to not care for anyone around them because God does not? Or is God somehow outside of the good rules He set up for His creatures? If He were outside of the good rules He set up, that therefore would mean that Christians end up in Euthyphro’s Dilemma (description here). This is where God is no longer good, but “Goodness” becomes an external measuring stick that everyone, God included, must measure up to. That then raises questions as to who set up this external measure of good and who or what defines this measure as good?
Therefore, God cannot be outside of what is good because He is good.
Back to the topic. If God says He loves us, but does not care for us, then He does not truly love us.
However, there are many verses that say God loves us. John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:37, Galatians 2:20, 1 John 3:1, etc..
So, if God says He loves us, but does not actually love us (because He does not care for us), then therefore He is a liar. He said He loves us, but He does not actually.
If God lies, that means He is a sinner.
If God is a sinner, then Jesus as God could not have paid for our sins by dying on the cross. He would not have been the perfect substitute. He can only pay for His own sin.
If Jesus could not pay for our sins by dying on the cross, then we are still sinners and are not saved.
If we are still sinners, then “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” (1 Corinthians 15:32) and we are the most miserable of men (1 Cor 15:19 MEV).
But what does this have to do with the Imprecatory Psalms? Because God loves us and cares for us, He wants the best for us. Sometimes, the best for us is judgment on our wicked oppressors. Sometimes, the best for the Christian is to see the wicked brought to justice.
In addition, it is the best for the wicked person to be brought to justice. Wicked people are rarely, if ever, saved by “being loved into the kingdom.” There must be consequences to the wicked person’s actions for there to be true change. The law, God’s rules for conduct and for life, is a tutor to teach the ungodly about their need for a Savior. It is also a restrainer, and a measuring stick to show where and how much the sinner falls short.
However, one important distinction must be drawn here. It is not the law itself that saves. I think you definitely need to introduce “the law” in the previous paragraph if you’re going to use it here. Rather, the law points out the need for salvation. Paul writes in Galatians 3, “23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.” The law is designed to keep people until they receive faith in God through trusting in Christ as their salvation. However, the law cannot be perfectly followed, as Paul points out in Romans 7 when he writes:
8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.”
Paul is pointing out that no one can follow the law perfectly. Not in the Old Covenant. Not in the New Covenant. The law itself cannot bring life, because people can never meet God’s standards. Therefore, one of the purposes of the law is to show people their inability to please God, and their inability not to sin. Thus, Christ, knowing that we could never keep the law well enough, came, lived perfectly, and died for our sins, so that He would meet the requirements for us. Now Christians can have peace with God, because Christ has fulfilled the law, and God exchanges Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death for our sinful one , which means God is completely pleased with us (because He is pleased with Christ’s perfection, listed on our account books if we accept His work and believe in His substitution for us personally. Because Christ fulfilled all of the requirements of the law, and ascribed all of His good works to our account when we believe in Him, we become good enough before God, and He sees us as if we had never committed one sin ever in our lives. He could never love us less, nor could he ever be more pleased with us.
The law still has a purpose today. The law still, to this day, points out people’s inability to live perfectly. In fact, the law is necessary to point out people’s lack of ability to live up to God’s standards. Just like Paul says in Romans 7:7, “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’”
Notice what Paul does not say here. He does not write that it was God’s love that showed him his sin. He does not say that it was people “loving on him” that made him feel guilty for his sins. Rather, when someone, speaking the Law, said “here is the standard, and here are the consequences if you do not meet that standard,” then Paul realized that he could not live up to that standard and he recognized his need for a Savior.
Even today, Christians will have immensely less success trying to “love someone into the kingdom” than if they show that person’s need for salvation. If God only tried to woo people into His kingdom, hardly anyone – if anyone at all – would come. Rather, everyone would just be enabled to remain right where they were, because God was already showing His love for everyone. Why would anyone ever feel a need to change if God already loves them where they are? Rather, when people are presented with the law, they realize they cannot stay where they are. That is when people can be saved.
If a wicked person sees that someone is trying to “love them into the kingdom”, the wicked person will have a couple thoughts.
1. Cool! I’m getting away with it! Let’s see if I can go a little farther and get away with more!
2. What fools! These guys are pushovers! I can just walk all over them and they won’t fight back! This is great! I can do whatever I want, and no one will ever call me out on it! I’ll just have to whip up the waterworks when they move to lightly tap my wrists, then I can go right back to doing whatever it was I was doing!
Name one truly evil person in the Bible who was “loved into the kingdom.”
How about King David? He was confronted by Nathan. 2 Samuel 12
What about Simon the Sorcerer? He was confronted by Peter. Acts 8:9-25
What about Paul the Apostle? He was confronted by God Himself. Acts 9:1-25
What about Peter? Paul confronted him. Galatians 2
What about Ananias and Saphira? Peter Confronted them. Acts 5
What about King Saul? Samuel confronted him. 1 Samuel 15
What about Diotrophes? John opposed him. 3 John 1
What about the prophets of Balaam? Elijah confronted them. 1 Kings 18.
What about the corrupt kings and queens of Israel? The prophets confronted them. 1 & 2 Kings
What about Balaam, the prophet? A talking donkey confronted him. Numbers 22
What about the man sleeping with his step-mom? Paul said to throw him out/ hand him over to Satan. 1 Corinthians 5. (By the way, Paul was writing against the Corinthian church’s “loving this guy into the kingdom.” He blasted the church for their ‘tolerant’ attitude towards sin, and for bragging about/taking pride in, how “loving” they were towards the wicked.)
One may ask, what about when Jesus died on the cross for the world (John 3:16)? Let me ask you this: how often did Jesus talk about hell or Sheol? How often did he call someone out, saying that they needed to change? Now, think about the “numerous” times that Jesus kept consequences from happening to people who sinned. He didn’t tell the other thief on the cross – the one that jeered at Him – that he would go to heaven as well. He didn’t forgive the other thief on the cross.
Jesus does not save the sinner, yet throw the sin into hell. He sends the sinner to hell.
Just because Jesus made a way into heaven does not mean that He lowered heaven’s standards. God still will not accept anything less than perfect.
So, if God loves us, cares for us, and wants the best for us — and there are abusers who are hurting Christians and destroying the church — wouldn’t the best thing for us be to get the wicked people out of the church? To remove the wolves from the midst of the flock? Wouldn’t the best thing be to pray the Imprecatory Psalms against them, to ask God to bring judgment on them? Wouldn’t it be God’s will for His children to pray the Imprecatory Psalms – to desire that He remove the wicked and keep them from causing anyone any more pain and destruction, that He rescue His children, and that He show His justice for the bruised and traumatized? Like Jimmy Hinton (formerly of Church Protect, and now of Jimmy Hinton.org), and Jon Uhler (still with Church Protect) said in a recent podcast about God’s heart for justice and scriptural forgiveness, “It’s amazing to think how normalizing and healing it is and would be if survivors could see their perpetrators under a pile of rocks. It would answer a whole lot of questions.” Quotes taken from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9AAerVI8eI&feature=youtu.be
Or does the New Covenant God really tolerate evil, and let the wicked roam free? This would directly mean that He would despise the plight of the hurting victim.
If the law is necessary to show people their need for salvation, then why should wicked people be given a free pass, and be “loved”? Is it really loving to let – no, enable – someone to go farther into sin because their feet are never held to the fire?
Therefore, because God loves and cares for His children, He wants the best for them, which would mean removing the wicked person from the flock. If Christians are not allowed to pray the Imprecatory Psalms, then God does not care about justice for hurting victims. If God does not care about justice for the victims, then then He does not love the victims. However, the Bible says that He loves the hurting, weak, and poor. Therefore, God is a liar if He says He loves the victims yet does not care for them. Therefore, God is a liar. If God is a liar, then He is a sinner. If He is a sinner, then Jesus’s death on the cross could not pay for our sins because He was not a perfect sacrifice. If His death on the cross could not pay for our sins, then Christians are not saved, and our faith is in vain. Instead, Christians should pray the Imprecatory Psalms because God is good, desires justice, and wants the best for us. This may sound judgmental, but true wickedness needs judgment if there is to be any hope of change, not more enabling grace.
A good sermon series to help Christians become wise about truly wicked people and to help Christians develop a practical theology of evil is: