Absolutes in a compromised world.
Breakng the pattern of communal praise of the last 10 or so Psalms, today’s is quite a stern first person song of King David.
It comes from the early days of his reign and he is setting standards for it. He wants to be an obedient king, obedient to the love and justice of God. And he’s inheriting a no doubt corrupt and compromised court from king Saul.
He’ll have no part of anything perverse or vile, won’t listen to slanderers or liars, the proud or haughty. He’s determined to weed out, silence and cut off the blatantly wicked, the evildoers. Every morning! he adds, to give it a practical emphasis.
On the positive side he will seek out the faithful, and live among them, he’ll listen to the blameless.
Of course it didn’t work out quite that way. He eventually had to be confronted with his own deceit and evil. And his court was sometimes a hotbed of betrayal and ruthlessness.
Google started out the same way, with the motto “dont be evil”. They mention it a bit less these days. They are struggling with the ethics of artificial intelligence, which has the potential of an Orwellian future if mishandled.
David wasn’t perfect, but he was the best king they ever had. Standards make a difference, even if they are unsustainable.
David also had a huge heart for forgiveness. He forgave people against the advice of his best counselors, when it made poor political sense.
The Chinese government arent afraid to impose zero tolerance standards on their citizens, using modern technology. If you are trying to buy a train ticket, face recognition prevents you if you are behind on your taxes, that sort of thing. The towns of some Islamic minorites have become virtual surveillance prisons.
But they didn’t start at god’s love and mercy, where David did. His boldness in proposing a zero tolerance society is grounded in his humility before his maker. It includes himself.
Is it my age? Absolutes seem increasingly futile to me. Life teaches otherwise.
But a clear eyed commitment to standards, starting with me, in humility? Never too old for that.