Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
there is a future for the man of peace. Psalm 37
Once, years ago, in Rio, I was motoring down a freeway when my hosts pointed, to an effigy policeman sitting in a makeshift booth high above the highway. The cop was a manikin. He was there to throw fear into speeders, they said, giggling. But at that moment it was impossible for me not to think, oddly enough, of South Africa, where a few years before, something happened which I never forgot.
We were on our way to Sin City because our South African hosts wanted to show us the place, a Las Vegas in the middle of one of the impoverished “homelands” created by apartheid. I was driving, following our hostess, who was also driving a vehicle.
Out in the middle of nowhere, I was pulled over by a policeman, and I knew—I had no doubt—that I had been speeding, as had our hostess, I knew, since it had taken all the courage I could mount simply to keep up with her, driving as I was from the wrong side of the car. When I pulled over, I never opened my door, but she barreled out and went directly back to the black policeman, chewed him out but good, gesticulating angrily. I didn’t get a ticket; neither did she.
I’ll never forget that because what happened on that lonely stretch of highway through the veld would not have happened here, in the U.S. I don’t know that our hostess, a woman I admire greatly, a fine Christian, a loving mother, ever understood how I read that event; but the truth, to me, was clear: a white woman exercised total control of a black policeman. By my translation of those events, she was sure that she was above his law.
Those two experiences taught me something about the society I live in, something I’ve never quite forgotten: in America, unlike many other countries, one does not laugh at the law—and because that’s true, because I am blessed to live more safely, period.
Injustice abounds in this society; we’re no utopia. I’m not about to break into “America, the Beautiful.” But reading a verse like this one makes me think that somewhere along the line, in my Christian upbringing, I was taught too well that the word “redeemed” applies to only a few; the blameless, the upright, the righteous—that’s not a lot of folks.
I think I still define the narrow way as a needle’s eye, when in fact I’ve learned in almost sixty years that it’s far more expansive than I’ve ever believed. After all, here, as elsewhere, there are many who are upright, men and women of peace. I live in a land which believes of itself—correctly, for the most part—that we all live under “the rule of law.”
Blameless?—on that one I’ll take a pass. Nobody’s really blameless, except one—that one was born in a manger.
It seems to me there’s an argument in this verse that doesn’t require revelation: you want trouble?—just make it. You want peace?—build it.
There are likely far more visible saints than my mind, steeped in Calvinist theology, likes to admit. Thank goodness, God almighty admits far more.
But here again, David likely scribbled better than he knew because the promise is the trump card: “there is a future for the man of peace,” he says.
There is eternity, no manikin cops, no highway patrol, not even a speed bump.