Today for the sermon video feed from Tennessee, the current president of my particular church gave a message where he examined the connection between Psalm 15  and the Sermon on the Mount. The idea was an interesting one, to be sure, although David’s thoughts in Psalm 15 are so brief that they must be expanded on and unpackaged considerably if one is going to show the broad scope of issues addressed in the Sermon on the Mount. There were a couple of elements about the message that struck me as particularly worthwhile, though, and although it is late and I really do need to get some sleep, I would like to write at least a little bit about the implications of the message for wider reflection and application, so as to turn an interesting idea into something that is of enduring and practical value, which is the way I tend to prefer to think about the messages I hear or read.
One fact that I did not comment upon in my previous discussion of Psalm 15 was that the psalm is a particularly popular one among Jews, who consider Psalm 15 to describe a godly gentleman. The question remains, though, whether the desire to praise a godly gentleman exists simultaneously with the desire to emulate a model godly gentleman. There are many qualities that can be appreciated or respected, but that may not be considered to be worthwhile to emulate. Some people, for example, enjoy outsourcing matters of boring or difficult research, and while they may respect those who are learned and well-read and well-spoken, they may not always see it necessary to acquire these skills themselves. To a certain extent, this is true of many people. Someone may appreciate or enjoy those who are handymen or good car mechanics, for example, and may certainly appreciate those skills when in need of help for projects, but may not see it as worthwhile to take the time and difficult effort to acquire those qualities.
Yet, it would seem likely that if someone understood the importance of developing a certain set of qualities, that there would be no question that the opportunity of eternal life in the Kingdom of God would be worth taking a substantial amount of time and effort in developing those qualities. As a point of interest, our choir, along with some preteens and young teenagers, is singing a song that was written by one of the ministers at our feast site about Psalm 15, so the message will definitely be reinforced, and as the qualities will be sung by the women’s and children’s parts, perhaps it will help us all reflect on the fact that these qualities are not merely those of a godly gentleman, but of a godly lady or a godly child or teenager as well. For example, to pick out one of the qualities of a model believer at random, one of the qualities of such a believer is to restrain any slandering tongue and avoid backbiting a brother or a neighbor. To be sure, this is an area where I could stand to do better, and I am certain as well that many others could stand to do much better at this quality with regards to me .
Yet the knowledge that both we and others could stand to do a lot better ought to prompt us to be merciful to others insofar as we wish for God to be merciful to us. So long as a given verse or passage in the Bible is used to club others over the head, it is not fulfilling its most important purpose in our lives. Those who look down on others, after all, find it hard to look up to God, and end up praying with themselves as did the Pharisee who trusted in his own righteousness and did not understand that he needed at least as much mercy and unmerited pardon from God as the sinners and tax collectors whom he sneered at. Recognizing our own shortcomings, our own struggles, and our sincere desire to overcome them, is an important step in being gracious and generous-minded to other people, and even if it may take us a great deal of time and effort to acquire the sort of qualities that a godly person demonstrates in his (or her) conduct, at least we can know that there is plenty of room for a hillside dwelling not only for ourselves, but for many other people who are all in the process of growing to be more like our Heavenly Father and our Elder Brother Jesus Christ in their own ways, and in their own time. The Kingdom of Heaven is not a place of solitude and isolation, after all.
 After all, truth is an absolute defense against a charge of libel or slander, but making sure that one is speaking truth when one speaks negatively about others is by no means a straightforward task, as many people in point of fact do commit libel and slander while thinking that they are speaking truth because they have confused their own paranoid fears or inaccurate interpretations of what others say, do, or write with the truth. As much as I lament this shortcoming in others, I must admit that I am not immune to it either.