Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.
Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love, and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness. (Psalm26:1-3)
A while back I came across an article in Church Leaders Magazine entitled “Your Pastor is a Sinner.” Naturally, I was intrigued! It’s not that I was surprised, of course. As a pastor, I am all too aware of my own struggles and shortcomings. The author of the article, Rusty George, is also a pastor. He is careful to let his readers know that he’s not suggesting we give a free pass to pastors who betray their high calling; rather, he is encouraging parishioners to understand that no one is perfect. No one, that is, except the one we worship, Jesus Christ. Your pastor, George reminds us, is on the same journey as everyone else. Your pastor is, as the Puritan preacher Richard Baxter put it, “a dying man preaching to dying men.”
As I read the opening verses to Psalm 26, I confess it really rubs me the wrong way. David begins this short song by declaring that he has, 1) led a blameless life, 2) always trusted the Lord, 3) never faltered, 4) always been mindful of God’s unfailing love, and 5) lived in reliance on God’s faithfulness. In contrast, there are some weeks where I am 0 for 5 on that list! And the rest of the Psalm doesn’t change my initial reaction. Verses 4-8 goes on to describe how he avoids associating with “evildoers,” and hangs out at the altar singing praises all day long! Really?
Maybe I’m just envious of David’s tremendous piety and spirituality. On the other hand, I’m still skeptical!
Not only is your pastor a sinner, but David sure sowed his share of wild oats as well! There is story after story in the Bible about David’s sinful behaviors. David’s actions had devastating consequences—people suffered and even died because of the evil choices David made! How can he act as though none of that matters? How can he portray himself as a squeaky-clean altar boy? How can he even suggest he has led a “blameless life?” C’mon David, BE REAL!
But then again, maybe that’s not the point of David’s song.
David asks God to “Vindicate” him. Our English word for vindicate can mean two things: to substantiate or verify a claim, or to absolve or declare innocent of something. David isn’t asking God to verify that he is blameless, he is pleading with God to declare him innocent, in spite of everything he’s done. David was capable of great sin, but God is capable of even greater forgiveness! By God’s grace and mercy, David was able to proclaim his innocence and sing God’s praises in the sanctuary. As another psalm-writer would later declare, “With you [Lord] there is forgiveness, so that we can, in reverence, serve you.” (Psalm 130:4)
News flash: not only is your pastor a sinner, so are you! In fact, we are all sinners! But because of God’s great love and because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, our sinfulness no longer defines us. In God’s eyes, we have been declared “blameless.” As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)
David knew that to BE REAL – to really be who he was created to be – meant that he was free FROM the sin that condemned him, and he was also free TO celebrate and share that new life that he had received.
Here at The Living Well, we talk about what it means to BE REAL. Our vision declares that “We are a group of people who find real life in Jesus Christ, celebrate that life in community, and share the life with everyone around us.” Jesus is the source of that REAL LIFE; he is the Well from which we can drink the Living Water. Believe him, trust him, be mindful of his unfailing love, rely on his faithfulness; and always stay thirty for him!