Saturday, July 6, 2019

Before Church

Confessions of a Church Hopper: Insider Hypocrites
Sunday, July 7, 2019

Y’all are gonna be so glad when I find a church home. Like a food critic coming into a restaurant, everyone trembles lest they are the next observation on the Beth Stone church-hopper list.  I wonder if my picture is circulating in the Lexington ministerial, so greeters know me on sight and report me to the pastor; after all, they don’t want to become the next cautionary tale in this spontaneous and hopefully anonymous, review.  If you’re wondering if these examples are about your church, probably not.  One woman can only make so many visits.  And you’ll be relieved to see I am preaching myself for the next five weeks; you can come see if I practice what I preach!  Speaking of which . . .

Hypocrites, the constant criticism aimed at the church. A friend of mine once said, “My husband and I don’t go to church, it’s full of hypocrites.” 

Before I could stop myself I said, “Always room for two more!”  Wow.  Foot in mouth moment if ever I committed one.  She chuckled ruefully, obviously got my point, but didn’t go to church.  So what do we do with a church full of hypocrites? 

Jesus was on about hypocrisy.  He called out Pharisees  trying to trap Him in His teaching in Matthew 22:15-22; He called out rich people who made a hypocritical spectacle of their generosity in Matthew 6:1-4, and He called out His listeners to not judge others for teeny speckly sins while having sin-logs in their own eyes (Matthew 7:1-5).  But here’s the spiritual difference: do you know you’re a hypocrite? 

A hypocrite is someone who gets caught denying his own standards by doing the opposite of what he says.  It is someone who does not walk her talk.  It happens to all of us; we think we are doing all right, and then some besetting sin trips us up, and we fall headlong into the mud of hypocrisy.  Even Paul said, “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very think I hate,” (Romans 7:15). But how does that translate for us, the insider hypocrites?

Insider hypocrites know we need grace.  We know, like Paul, that in striving to live the Christian life there are going to be slip-ups.  Major ones and minor ones.  Deliberate ones and unconscious ones.  Embarrassing ones and hurtful ones.  What do we do when we slip up?  Do we try to cover up or do we come clean?  Do we lie and prevaricate and justify our actions?  Or do we run to the throne of grace to find help in our time of need, calling on our great High Priest to cleanse us and set us back on the right road?  Cover-ups are pride; we pretend we don’t need Jesus.  Coming clean is how we keep on the path, because we know we need Jesus.  “There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1).  He is the solution to our sin, the balm in Gilead, the help for insider hypocrites. 

One day, some day, we will slough off our hypocrites’ cocoons and soar into sinlessness by the grace of Christ.  Until then, let’s pray we remain fully aware that in the church we are all insider hypocrites, and show others the same grace, the same mercy, that we ourselves have received.