The proud have me in great derision, yet I do not turn aside from your law…the proud have forged a lie against me, but I will keep your precepts with my whole heart. Psalm 119:51, 69
The American landscape is littered with men and women (and whole denominations!) who once professed faith in Christ. Men and women who read God’s Word, sat under preaching, were baptized, and ate at the Lord’s table. Yet at some point these people decided that following Christ was no longer worth it. An outsider who knows nothing of America may assume that some great persecution arose and has caused these people to leave the faith. But those of us living here and watching the events of the last 50 years know that is not the case. What has caused such a large number of professing Christians to either leave the faith or opt for a Christian walk that looks nothing like the Bible?
One answer is found here in Psalm 119. Christians in America do not fear physical persecution. It is a non-existent threat. We do not worry about our church services being broken in to, our women being raped, or being beheaded for our faith. But we do worry about our reputation. There are two main reasons people leave the faith: they either wanted to indulge a sin the Scriptures condemn or they wanted to be thought of as cool. It is this last category that the Psalmist is addressing in these two verses.
He is being derided by the proud. The word here is used throughout Proverbs and is often translated scoffer. It is also used in Psalm 1:1 where the righteous man does not “sit in the seat of scorners.” The picture here is not of ISIS militants killing him, but of someone making fun of the Psalmist. They are laughing at him. He is the butt of the jokes at the water cooler. His family thinks he is too uptight. He used to have friends, but they don’t want to hang out with him any more. Maybe a blog or two has been dedicated to mocking his views. He is laughed at.
The second verse talks about the proud lying about the Psalmist. The word translated “forged” actually means “to smear” and can be used of glue. The enemies of the Psalmist have smeared him with lies and they have stuck to some degree. Again no physical persecution, but rather the proud attempt to ruin the reputation of the Psalmist. His life has been plastered over by the lies of his enemies. They talk about him behind his back to other employees. The family gets together without her and spreads little rumors about her home life. They lie about what is preached or taught at his church. And these lies stick and dog the Psalmist wherever he goes.
In our culture one of the biggest threats to our walk with Christ is the fear of being left out, rejected, of losing our reputation and status. We want the world to like us and approve of us. We want to be part of the in-crowd. We don’t want to be the geek who still believes the God made the world in six days, that sex is for marriage, children are a blessing, self-fulfillment is not the ultimate goal, the lost need to repent, the Bible is God’s Word, greed is sin, and women should not be pastors. So we bend. We compromise, slowly but surely moving away from the Bible.The Psalmist goes the opposite direction. When his reputation is threatened he moves towards the Bible. He refuses to turn aside from God’s Word no matter what the cost is to him.
In Hebrews 10:33 the author says the congregation there was willing to become a “spectacle” or be “publicly exposed.” The word is “theatrizo” which means to be brought up on the stage to be mocked. Paul uses a similar word in I Corinthians 4:9 when he says, “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.” In the coming years, we will not hold fast to Christ unless we are willing to be mocked and scorned. Unless we can stand on the stage and let the world laugh at us our faith will fail. Our biggest danger will not be death, but rejection. If we long to be part of the cool kids and refuse to be rejected then we have already lost the battle. We must not fear their derision, scorn, scoffing, and lies. Our reputation is not more important than Christ. Let us cling to His Word and be willing to suffer shame before the world. Are we ready to be a spectacle before our friends, neighbors, family members, and community?