1Oh God, endow the king with your justice.
Give the crown prince your righteousness.
2Let him judge your people in the right way,
and provide justice to the oppressed.
3May the mountains give your people peace,
And the hills provide righteousness.
4May he judge the poor among your people,
and save the children of the poor,
and may he crush the oppressor. — Psalm 72:1-4
At Christmas time we celebrate the gift of Jesus, who came as a baby into our world to face the problems that each one of us has to face. In our modern calendar, we put New Years day right after Christmas, which kind of breaks up the meditation of the season. Christmas day was only a start. It was not the whole mission of Jesus. Throughout the year we will meditate on various aspects of the life of Jesus and what they mean to us.
This coming Sunday is Epiphany. That’s not a day we remember nearly as much as we do other days in the calendar. It celebrates the visit of the wise men to Bethlehem. That visit brings Jesus into contact with the world’s rulers for the first time. Herod expresses interest in this new king. He tries to make it sound positive, but in fact he is very worried about this â€œkingâ€ who is showing up in his territory and attracting the attention of foreign VIPs! You can read the whole story in Matthew 2:1-12.
And this illustrates the way we live in this world. We are aliens in one sense, and yet we have to live here. We’re permanent resident aliensâ€”permanent until Jesus comes! And that can make life interesting. There are a number of dangers for resident aliens. You can fall afoul of the laws of the country where you are a resident and get into considerable trouble. You can represent your homeland badly by your words or behavior. You can be so isolated that nobody in your country of residence even knows you.
My parents were missionaries most of their lives. We had the potential, as a missionary family to do all of those things. We could be â€œugly Americansâ€ and hurt the image of the United States in the country where we lived. At the same time, we could hurt the image of our eternal country, and our eternal King by that behavior. We could live in isolation and never get to know the local people, and that wouldn’t help either. On the other hand we could â€œgo nativeâ€ and forget where we came from. For me as a teenager living in Guyana, talking and eating like my Guyanese friends was fun and generally harmless, though some things made me feel like an alien when I returned to the United States for school. But if we â€œgo nativeâ€ as Christians living in this world, that’s a much bigger problem.
In the portion of the prayer I quoted from Psalm 72, the people pray for their king, in this case, the king of Israel. But I think their prayer is quite appropriate for aliens living in this world. The prayer is that the king will do justice, will get his sense of justice from God, and will care for the poor and oppressed. As aliens here, we have the right to participate in the life of this world, and to make it betterâ€”and it’s right for us to do so.
Here in the United States we’re coming up on primary season. Tomorrow the first votes of the presidential election season will be cast. Let’s pray for the folks who will come to govern us that they will receive a sense of justice from God, that they will rule and judge justly and righteously, and that they will care for the poor and the oppressed.
And let’s work for what we pray for as wellâ€”in whatever way God leads us to work.