"The demands of relationship." The phrase is not mine, but I really like it.
Actually, it comes from "Sing a New Song: The Psalms in the Sunday Lectionary," by Irene Nowell, OSB, Ph.D. It's a commentary and I'm reading it along with the Psalms during daily devotions.
Nowell says that the righteous or just person lives up to the demands of relationship as outlined in Psalm 15. Observe:
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his or her* heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change his or her* mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.
And here it is in "The Message," by Eugene H. Peterson. I like this version from time to time because it goes straight to the point.
A David Psalm
God, who gets invited to dinner at your place?
How do we get on your guest list?
tell the truth.
"Don't hurt your friend,
don't blame your neighbor;
despise the despicable.
"Keep your word even when it costs you,
make an honest living,
never take a bribe.
"You'll never get
if you live like this."
At the beginning of the Psalm, which Nowell classifies as "entrance liturgy," the worshipper is entering the doorway of God's tent asking for hospitality. God outlines what is required to enter in a way that is close to his heart: the way a person will treat others. If a person agrees to do this then they gain admittance.
"Such a person lives by God's Law, honoring the demands of relationship and steering clear of evil through every step of daily life," Nowell writes. "The final statement is a promise: 'Whoever does these things will never be shaken.' Not only is such a person admitted to worship; this person enjoys the fulness of life."
Before you despair over the perfect behavior outlined in this Psalm, Nowell writes that those who agree to live like this enter God's tent and become one of "Yahweh's covenant people."
"The focus is on present and future rather than past," she writes.
Of course, if we slip up we can ask forgiveness. However, we want to be careful not to take this for granted. We wouldn't want to do wrongful things in a cavalier manner, fully expecting that God will forgive. That kind of attitude leaves us outside the tent, exactly where we don't want to be.
Nowell writes: "Psalm 15 describes the person who keeps the Law, a person who does what is right. This person is not simply keeping a set of rules but is accepting the guidance of God in daily affairs. Whoever does this honors the demands of the various relationships of life. Thus this person is truly just. The consequence is the ultimate fulfillment of covenant law: life in the presence of God."
It all boils down to the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated and "Love your neighbor as yourself."
I like the way the Old Testament ties in so nicely with the New Testament.
I also appreciate the way God offers forgiveness when we don't live up to his covenant.
Grace and peace,
*In the 2011 version of the NIV Bible, this actually says "their". I corrected it because it's really bad grammar. Remember subject/verb agreement? I think what the translators were going for was gender neutrality. Although a fine pursuit, proper grammar should not be sacrificed just because the general population does not recognize it as such.