Mockery has become a way of life in our society. Everything from incendiary Facebook posts to toxic tweets to disgusting public displays. When confronted, perpetrators of the worst rash of mockery in our country’s history claim that they have the right to do so. They assert that the nature of the people they mock gives them the moral authority to engage in rhetorical and symbolic violence. It is as if our entire society has lost its sense of decorum and plunged headfirst into a catfight. Nothing is too vulgar or rude or disrespectful when people cut themselves free of the ethical underpinnings of human society. The public forum for our country has become useless, contaminated, and a thing to be avoided.
It is easy for Christians to become discouraged. But Paul’s warning in Galatians should help us to gain perspective. Ultimately, the extreme behavior of so many in our culture is mocking God. But God has established and still maintains human society. People have lost sight of God’s ownership of the public sphere. When they abandon the moral code that normally governs community behavior they also abandon the protection that God has designed into civil human interactions. Mocking God in this way opens one up for reaping what is sown.
This type of behavior will not go on indefinitely. God will prevail. We should bear in mind the story in Acts 13 about Elymas, a Jewish false prophet, who tried to prevent the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, from investigating Christian teachings. Paul foresaw God’s response to Elymas’ mockery in the looming presence of God’s Spirit. Pronouncing Elymas’ doom Paul said:
“You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.
When we look in horror at what our society has become we should remember what happened to Elymas. God will not be mocked. We are not free to express ourselves beyond the bounds of respectful public behavior. Choices that legitimate extreme public expression negatively expose people to the power of God at work in the world. A quick look at history shows God’s invariable moral design in human community. And either fortunately or unfortunately, we will all reap what we sow.
Awesome is God from his sanctuary; the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people. Blessed be God! (Psalm 68:35)