A shameless desire for justice (Psalm 25:1-3)

"To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.  
O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous."
- Psalm 25:1-3

If you're American, British, an Aussie, or from anywhere in what we consider the "western world," then you come from a guilt based society. That is, we have a real strong sense of right and wrong, and feel worse about being wronged than anything else.

Much of the third world and all of the Middle East however, is generally shame based. To them what is right and wrong is not nearly so important as what brings shame.

I've lived in a shame based culture for a little over six years now and I am still not used to it. I couldn't care less if I do something that brings shame to me as long as it is right. But many of my friends will do what is wrong (even lie, cheat, steal etc...) as long as it does not bring shame to them or their family. A parent will often encourage their child to cheat to get into college, because not getting into college is shameful, and as long as they don't get caught they consider it to be basically free from consequences.

Now if I was thrown in jail because of something I did illegally my family would be ashamed a little bit, but would also feel that right had been done by putting me in jail. If however, I was jailed for something I did not do, then I would be as angry as I can possibly imagine, and I imagine my family would be too.

When reading this psalm it is important to understand that being put to shame is the worst thing imaginable to a person in a shame based society. And while this seems an odd prayer to relate to (because I don't feel like it does much for my enemy to be put to shame - I would if justice was served), we must understand it's significance to David.

I'll try to re-write this in our terms -

"To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.  
O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be wrongfully accused;
let not my enemies escape their punishment.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be treated unjustly;
they shall be punished who are wantonly treacherous."
- New Roger Mugs Version (NRMV)

Now that's a prayer I can see myself praying.