How do we get on God's guest list?

What does it take? This seems to be a common question in regards to religion. What does it take to be accepted? What rules do we have to follow? How good do we have to be?

This is the question of Psalm 15. What does Yahweh, the God of Israel, require?

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? – Psalm 15:1

I love how the Message translation puts it.

God, who gets invited to dinner at your place?    How do we get on your guest list? – Psalm 15:1 (MSG)

How would you answer that question?

Many people would say those who do more good things than bad will get in. But this Psalm says more is required.

God does not simply require goodness, he requires blamelessness.

The one whose walk is blameless, -Psalm 15:2a

I might be able to claim that I am a good person or a moral person or a nice person. But could I ever make the claim that I am a blameless person?

Thankfully, I don’t have to be. The promise of Christianity is that Jesus puts us on the guest list. We enter by faith in Him. (Questions about that? Check out Romans 5:1 or Hebrews 10:19-22)

The problem, though, is that many people stop there. I believe in Jesus. I get to go to the dinner party. Hooray!

But here’s the thing. Faith in Jesus means much more than “getting in.” If we truly understand what Christ did for us, then we will seek not only to believe in Jesus, but to follow Him. That is how we return the love that we have been given.

We have been invited to a dinner party. A great sacrifice has been made to get us there. It is a home filled with love and beauty beyond our wildest imagination.

Do we want to show up in our rattiest clothes? Having not showered for several days? With food stuck between our teeth?

Or do we want to prepare ourselves? Do we want to demonstrate, in some way, how honored we are to be there?

We can show our love and gratitude by doing “what is righteous.”- Psalm 15:2b

But what is righteousness? Going to church every Sunday? Being a prude? Following an exorbitant number of rules? Using haughty religious words that show how much we understand?

According to Psalm 15, doing what is righteous is not about doing what is religious. Doing what is righteous is about doing what is loving.

One who does what is righteous: speaks the truth from their heart; has a tongue that utters no slander, does no wrong to a neighbor, casts no slur on others; despises what is vile honors those who fear the Lord; keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; lends money to the poor without interest; and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. – Psalm 15:2-5a (paraphrased)

That is a good list to remember. And it ends with a promise

Whoever does these things will never be shaken. – Psalm 15:5b

Living a life of love can lead to heartache. We may be wounded as we try to love those who are difficult. We may not be able to get ahead the way we could if we stepped on others. But still, we can do this without being shaken. We are God’s child, an already invited dinner guest to His house. Our identity in Christ can give us the security and strength to do what is righteous.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight,  so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could read it and think about it, even when that is difficult.

justice makes me uncomfortable

God’s grace is fresh air for my suffocating soul. It brings me rest from my striving. Forgiveness from my failings. Hope from my despair. And so, I reflect on grace a lot. I read about it. Hang it on my wall. Sing about it. Pass it along.

I do not do the same with God’s justice. Grace makes me joyful. Justice makes me uncomfortable.

I’m walking through the Psalms, and I’m on Psalm 5. A Psalm with a lot of justice language. Language that sounds harsh. Vengeful. Angry.

Here are some of the words that make me squirm in my seat.

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, LORD, detest. – Psalm 5:4-6

Yes, the language is severe. But, should it really make me as uncomfortable as it does?

Grace sometimes causes me to falsely think of God as a pushover. But is that the kind of God I can trust? Is that the kind of God that truly loves me?

These verses describe people who have wronged God’s beloved children and are completely unrepentant about it. Somehow, they are arrogant enough to think they can stand before a holy God and not make a change.

So, what if I put myself in God’s shoes? Let’s say I had a child who was being bullied. And when I confronted the oppressor, he spat in my face and said, “Just try to stop me from doing it again tomorrow.” Would grace mean I let that bully walk away? No. I would be angry. Righteously angry. I would hope for repentance. But if it was not there, I would intervene and protect the one I loved.

How much more does God desire to defend His children?

Where that comparison breaks down is that I am a sinful human. I would see a need for justice, but my human attempts to achieve it would be flawed.

God is holiness and truth. He can be trusted to enforce righteous justice.

David has been bullied. He has been hurt. Deeply wounded. Psalm 5 is his response. His prayer. His honest and raw prayer. When he is wronged, he affirms God’s justice. And then, he gives the situation over to Him.

Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make your way straight before me. Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies. Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. – Psalm 5:8-10

David uses harsh words to describe those who have wronged him. But they begin with a request for the Lord to lead him in righteousness. David senses that his desire for justice is good. But he knows his efforts to achieve it would be flawed. So, instead of taking matters in his own hands, David asks God to show the way. He gives God his anger, vengeance, and frustration, and asks for God’s justice to be done.

The more I reflected on it, the less this Psalm made me uncomfortable and the more it made me feel loved. It shows me that I have a God who cares when I have been wronged. That I have a God who wants to hear my anger, no matter how raw. That I have a God who can bring righteous justice. (Maybe not in this lifetime. Maybe not in a way I understand. But God is good. One day, justice will come). That I have a God who can be my refuge when I feel under attack.

But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. – Psalm 5:11

Maybe I should reflect on God’s justice a little more often.