When I was a kid I remember all the talk of euthanasia, mercy killings and senior-citizen suicides that were being conducted by one Jack Kevorkian. Outside of the special I saw on him a year or so ago I have had little reason to consider his positions on the sanctity and dignity of human life, which seemed to be the battle ground for this discussion. When his name popped up on the news today, however, I was taken back to that time. As believers in God’s plan and his image in the oldest, sickest and most needy among us, we Christians have a responsibility to take a firm position against any behavior that places us firmly in the place of God.
We are against euthanasia and when I was growing up, Dr. Kevorkian was the largest public perpetrator of this evil in our nation. Our sisters and brothers did well to publicly denounce this great evil. We need to be careful though, because these just causes have a way of twisting our hearts. As simple as I can say it, our tendency is to proclaim right along with the Pharisee Lord, I thank you that I am not like that bastard. I visit my grandmother in the convalescent home. I visit folks in the hospital. Lest we lose sight of our goal, the call of Christ is not to be better than Dr. Kevorkian. It is to be perfect.
In the eighteenth Psalm, David commends his own innocence in the presence of God. In fact this is not the only “Psalm of innocence”. The Psalter is loaded down with statements like we find in verse 21. David pleads, The Lord dealt with me by my merit, for the cleanness of my hands he requited me. For I kept the ways of the Lord and did no evil before my God. All his laws were before me. From his statues I did not swerve. Now, that is a bold defense in the court of the Most High.
I suppose I cannot speak for everybody but I know that I do not want the Lord to deal with me according to my merit. In fact, I may have to think twice if I were to plead my merits to my boss. He could just as easily point out my failings- you are perpetually late, even if by five minutes. As much good things as I may bring to the table, even at work, at the end of the day pleading perfection there is completely insane. I am just sane enough to know what a ridiculous nut I am.
But here is David. He is not asking for a raise or better shifts, he is asking for relief from the murderous king Saul. David has been hiding out in caves and bushes, just praying that he wakes up alone, surrounded by the mountains of God instead of the spears of Saul. That is why I am so struck every time I come across Psalm 18. David does not ask for mercy but for justice. He places his heart before the Lord and boldly goes where no man in his right mind would go- the Not-Guilty plea in front of God. Bold- possibly crazy, but definitely bold.
And lest we miss this again, this is the same David who would later on get this victory from the hand of his enemy. He would not only refuse to kill God’s anointed king Saul but he would have the messenger killed who sang so joyously about the death of Saul. This is also the same David who was hanging out on his rooftop getting a good look at the wives of his soldiers in their birthday suits. This is the same David who called a woman named Bathsheba over to his place. She was lonely given the fact that her husband had been sent off to war by this same king David and his authority was absolute. After an episode that varies from lust, adultery and betrayal at its best to rape and coercion at its worst, this same “innocent” David had her husband, the righteous Uriah, murdered on the battlefield.
Oh yeah, and the whole Bathsheba episode was not the worst thing David ever did. No, the worst would be the census he took of the nation of Israel against the direct advice of God’s prophet Nathan. If you read his story, it was because of this ridiculous, boldfaced and reckless move that God’s people were divided North and South. His illegitimate son Solomon would take after his dad and set in motion the exile of the South and the absolute destruction of the North. Oh David, your innocence is so striking!
Do you think David prayed such bold words at the end of his life? Do you think he declared, And I was blameless before Him, and I kept myself from crime after a lifetime marked by two episodes of epic of foolish murderous greed? I think so. Absolutely.
David’s real claim to innocence was staked in his son who would come years and years after his death. When Jesus says that he has not come to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them, he means that he has become this innocent, law-abiding citizen of God’s kingdom that David claimed to be. The perfect law-keeping life of Jesus provided David, even centuries before, with a real, honest and true claim to innocence before God’s throne. And the same is ours.
Because of Jesus’ blameless life we can claim a clean sheet before the throne of God. It is this life that he calls us into. It is this life that Jesus feeds us with when we are together hearing the word, taking communion and confessing to one another.
We have been given the right to hang our hats on the innocence of Jesus. We have a bold claim in the presence of God, if we eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Comparing ourselves to a scoundrel will help us lose focus on what is really important. We have been called to be perfect. We fall miserably short constantly- yet we have the claim of the perfect obedience of Christ available to us at all times.
This is the innocence that gives hope, joy and love. It is ours in Christ.