Foolish faith

Psalm 53
A criticism of early Christians was that they were atheists. That sounds strange to us. Christians believe in God. How could they be atheists? The Roman world the Christian faith pervaded was religious. There were many gods to worship. Christians, though, dedicated their lives to the worship of one God. That meant they rejected all the others.

If Christians didn’t join in Rome’s worship, turmoil would unfold. That might be part of the reason to persecute Christians. The livelihood of the entire empire rested on appeasing all the gods.

But the Romans weren’t the first to make life difficult for the people of God. A quick read through the psalms reminds you of so many other enemies. Threats and attacks were a constant for many generations of people of faith.

Psalm 53:1 makes the familiar declaration: Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.” In the psalmist’s estimation, their foolishness was the cause of their evil. It’s not that other people didn’t believe in gods. They did. Most cultures had a network of gods that provided for their well being. To say one God alone was worthy of praise went against their wisdom. There’s a sense, then, of a constant battle of the gods for authority and rule.

We’re not even sure where the line is for the people of God. When did our faith become exclusively monotheistic? Even after it did, the “adulterous hearts” (Ezekiel 6:9) of the people turned away from God. They didn’t stop believing, of course. They chose to worship others.

That’s a reminder for us. When our priority isn’t our worship of God, it will be our worship of something else. It’s like we can’t help it.

Also, the fools the psalmist speaks of are not unintelligent. That’s not the issue. Their foolishness does keep them from recognizing the glory of God. But what stands out as a result of their disbelief is their terror. They terrorize the people of God. The psalmist says they are evildoers. They “eat up my people as they eat bread” (Psalm 53:4). If they would’ve left the people of God alone, there wouldn’t have been a prayer against them.

So, there’s another reminder for me to reflect upon. What difference does my belief in God make to others? I don’t want to be a terror–whatever the modern version of that would be–to anyone who doesn’t believe as I do. What good is that? It doesn’t glorify God. It may serve a selfish ambition and pride. But it does not exemplify true faith.

When we use our faith to belittle and shame others, we become like the fools who have fallen away (Psalm 53:3).

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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