Overcoming the cannibal within

Some thoughts on Ps 53… It begins with this familiar line: “Fools say in their heart, ‘There is no God…’” We usually apply this idea to people who do not know God. We lament the foolishness of people who live their lives out of relationship with God.

However, I am owning my share of this problem today. In my forgetfulness, I can go through chunks of the day behaving as if I am relatively independent from God. There is an impulse I live with every moment of every day to live as if God doesn’t exist. We all have this impulse. Paul quotes Psalm 53 in his letter to the Romans to support his argument that there is no one on the planet who seeks God on his or her own (Rom 3:12). Left to our own devices, we are all fools. We share the impulse to forget God. And that means we share the impulse to become cannibals.

Verse 4 says, “Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on God.” Devour people. Hunt them down, take them down, and consume them bite by bite. That is what we do when we live as if God didn’t exist. We use people for our own purposes. We put them down to make ourselves feel better. We climb over their backs to get ahead. We destroy them because they have made us angry. And so on. All of us have a cannibal within.

What to do? We begin by acknowledging to God that we have a cannibal within. What else can we do but lean completely on his mercy? He loves us, cannibal and all. What else can we do but receive this love that encompasses all of us? We can do nothing other than receive it, for we most certainly do not earn it. Receiving God's mercy and love should not be done cursorily or perfunctorily. It should be done in a personal, unhurried way. From his mercy and love we gain boldness to behave differently toward people. In boldness blended with ongoing humility, we turn from eating people to strengthening them, sharing the very love we have received.

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