The isolated disciple

Psalm 69 and Matthew 10.32

Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10.32

The emotional and spiritual price of being a follower or seeker after God is no new thing. Today there are so many long term situations where a Christian can feel alone and unable to see a way forward. It feels unjust and when things don’t seem as if they will ever change then in prayer the Christian will understand David’s words, ‘I am worn out calling for help, my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.’ v3 It can be particularly difficult for the adult who has become a Christian when those they know are hostile to their new found trust in Christ. This can often be family who now feel rejected or betrayed and then retaliate by rejecting the new Christian. Many experience opposition in the work place especially where the values at work do not conform to Christian values. Friends may reject a Christian because the Christian does not want to speak the way they used to or do the things the group once did. Living in the context of conflicting beliefs where one stands out as different frequently leads to bullying of various degrees and a tendency to compromise and conform to the group.

Psalm 69 exposes David’s inner life when isolated humanly and spiritually and reassures us that these experiences are not rare, they can be openly expressed to God. Christians have seen how Jesus went through many of these things himself and in that sense the psalm is seen as prophetic. Not all that is written here can be applied to Christ, David’s confession of sin v5 in particular does not apply to him. The language is poetic, powerful and evocative but that is appropriate to the internal dialogue that goes on when one feels, ‘up to one’s neck in it’. v1

How many of these feelings or situations have applied to you at some time in your Christian discipleship? They carry a contemporary resonance for the modern seeker after God.

It is painful when one feels that one is hated without legitimate reason. Think of a daughter who has become a Christian, that does not mean she no longer loves and respects her mother and family but there have been many who have been rejected by their family for their new found faith. In such circumstances David’s words, ‘Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs on my head; many are my enemies without cause’ will be a shared experience.   When we are in the middle of unjust hostility it easy to be filled with self-righteousness but David avoids this and confesses his own sin. ‘You God, know my folly, my guilt is not hidden from you.’ v5

To continue the example of hostility from one’s family David terms it being, ‘a foreigner to my own family’. The most obvious examples may be when one changes faith from the family faith, but it is not limited to that situation. It can be equally and just as painfully when one has abandoned a positively atheist setting or simply a context where no thought has been previously given to faith.

The actual practices of being a Christian in themselves can be the focus for hostility, that may be reading the bible, taking time for prayer, attending a bible study group and going to church. It could be altering how one uses time such as choosing to join in with a feeding the hungry project one evening a week instead of a social activity. For David the religious and cultural practices in his time were different but they still attracted derision. ‘When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport at me.’ vv10.11

When opposition is overwhelming it is OK to plead with God and pour out one’s heart because God does have great love for you. If we are struggling for words then the bible often provides words for us and we can simply pray what we read.

‘Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;in your great mercy turn to me.
Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
Come near and rescue me;
deliver me because of my foes.

You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;all my enemies are before you.’ vv16-19

If you feel in any way as David did in this psalm have you shared your feelings and circumstances with a trusted Christian?

Does the church you belong to take the time to know who the Christians are in their church who are experiencing opposition in their private life, understand and support them?

At The Cross – Chris Tomlin

Leave a Reply