The Just Seek His Soul
“The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul.”
Last month we shared a long article very similar to this subject and if you are interested in reading more I’d invite you to look further at Hindrances to Justice for the Oppressed.
The translation of this verse that I will be using is going to be specifically from the KJV. The translations on this verse vary but in looking at each of them I believe this verse can mean four different things. Looking at the different translations (here), we see this verse can mean:
That those who do evil seek the life of the righteous.
That the upright seek the soul of the blood-thirsty man, even in spite of their evil-doing.
That the upright seek the soul and wellbeing of the blameless, to preserve them from harm.
That during attacks from evil people, the righteous maintain seeking his own soul’s wellbeing, and to protect it (Prov 4:23, Psalm 119:23)
I think every single one of these points can absolutely be biblically supported. But I think that the main point of this verse is #3. Looking also to the importance and relevance of what is true within point #2, I want to contrast these two concepts within this verse.
All of us have to learn to love in our Christian walk, and learn to love our enemies. To learn to do good regardless of the circumstances that surround us. But today, of the four things mentioned above, it seems that only the second one is widely taught, and it is being taught to an imbalance with the other three.
Our seeking of the welfare of our enemies is an absolute priority, but it is just as much a priority as the upright seeking the welfare of the blameless, and a righteous person being permitted to protect their own welfare (Prov 4:23). Christians today need to be taught to love their enemies, to love their own souls, and to especially care for those who are of the household of faith and those who are upright or who are being oppressed.
But today, instead of all three being taught in this way, the love of our enemies is over-emphasized to the point that many persons feel they must neglect their own wellbeing in the name of it. I’m not speaking of specific cases of martyrdom here, but where people are taught to be enslaved to certain relationships in the name of loving enemies, or they are taught to step out into danger as if this is faith. The danger is that this is taught to such a degree that people are made to feel that rather than it being wise and biblical to preserve themselves, that it is wrong.
Certainly Paul is a great illustration of this issue to us. While he walked boldly into Jerusalem and certain suffering, and from afar, he only did this “kind” of behavior once. The whole rest of the time he fled (Acts 9:25; 14:6, 20). This is wisdom, but we deny this wisdom.
Along with this, the other upright individuals do not stand beside the person who is oppressed or with the person of God. Rather, they focus far more on “ministering” to the wicked person, to the neglect of those they are called to look after first. I believe that this is what Christian love is supposed to teach us first, and what this verse is truly meant to reflect: that those who are just look to the soul of the upright.
But today the very efforts to be overly focused with ministering to wicked persons mean there is very little bread, if anything, left for the children of God. (Matt 15:26) We think this is love and ministry while we neglect the very people that God has commanded us to look after the most. What is a shepherd for if not for the sheep? Yet so many ministers of God have been so foolish in this. They go so far as to allow wolves to roam within their sheep pens and prey upon their flock. How many must be sacrificed to their error before they will pick up the shepherd's staff and rightly divide between wolves and sheep, light and darkness, and the precious and the vile (Jer 15:19 KJV)?
Their focus should be to stand with the righteous person and pray for the wicked, but so often when these conflicts of a wolf preying upon a sheep arise, they don’t even believe these things are possible, and they are the ones that hide themselves under the guise of “not taking sides”. A shepherd is for the sheep! If a shepherd will not rightly feed, guide, teach, rebuke, and yes, protect the flock, then he is not a shepherd.
We have a responsibility to one another, to our own souls, and to praying for our enemies. We must realize this. Over-emphasizing any of these is unhealthy and dangerous. And an over-emphasis on loving our enemies to the neglect of the upright and to our own souls is very sickly and wrong.
Christians need to be careful to not wrongly judge, to not hypocritically judge, but they need to be careful to make sure that they absolutely do judge when it is necessary—for this is just as much our responsibility as anything else (1 Cor 5:12, Rom 16:17, Titus 3:10), and denial of this has caused great harm upon the flock of God’s people.
Our ideas of heroism often come far more from the world than they do from the Scriptures. Yet it is these ideas that many people think so highly of, and they have a far greater cost than we account for. These ideas certainly aren’t reflected in how Paul lived, one who shook the dust from his feet (Acts 13:51), nor Christ, who escaped people and walked away (John 8:59). Yet it is these ideas that are breeding such wrong views on what we as Christians are to be putting first in ministry, obedience to God, and what we call faith. Let us be mindful to keep in step with the Spirit as we feed on the Scriptures, and to keep place for all that is right, lest we exult what we personally value and neglect much of what God has instructed us to equally value.
September 30, 2020