As we were grappling with what Psalm 129 was conveying during our writing team discussion, my thoughts kept wandering back to one of Pixar’s finest films: WALL-E.

One of my favorite scenes from this movie is the part where the ship’s captain spends most of the night finding out about what life on Earth used to be like, and he’s absolutely enchanted. The next morning, the autopilot computer tries to take control of the ship. While doing so, it tries to destroy the precious little sprout WALL-E found on Earth (which would allow them to return to Earth after being in space for hundreds of years) with the justification that they must dispose of the plant in order to survive. The ship’s captain, realizing what’s at stake now that he’s seen what life could be like, maniacally fights to save that little plant with his own justification, “I don’t just want to survive, I want to live!”

I think this mindset characterizes a believer’s possible response to one reading of this psalm; sure, the Israelites survived. They got through it. They prevailed through terrible oppression and suffering. But…is this living? Is merely prevailing in the midst of suffering and resting in God’s justice to come for the enemies you hate, truly flourishing or is it just surviving?

I think the beauty of the Gospel is that God calls us to more than just surviving; he calls us to more richness, but also, more hardship. One of my favorite ancient Greek proverbs is, “Beautiful things are difficult.” A richer life comes through tougher challenges—and yet, isn’t a life of flourishing ultimately preferable to the life of comfort and “getting by”? One verse in Romans speaks to such Christian flourishing over the “surviving” we see in this psalm:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21).

With the coming of Jesus, God turned the natural order of things upside down and called his followers to love those enemies who oppress them. This is the “difficult,” harder part, but I also think it’s the “beautiful” part that brings thriving.

What’s comforting is that God doesn’t call us to a life of flourishing and tells us to do it in our own strength. The Spirit is there with us every step of the way to pick us up when we fall and to give us the strength and grace we don’t have.

I like to think of loving our enemies not as something we have to do, but as something we get to do. Something that is only made possible through the love of Christ. This ability is a gift only he can give us, but one that unlocks the secret to thriving.

Ashley Carr

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