“I’m fed up with Christians these days,” my friend said on the phone last night.
She’s spent the last few years living in very intense, intentional discipleship and faith community settings. She’s put her own heart and attitudes both under a microscrope, simultaneously allowing them to be projected onto a big screen in the name of transparency, healing and spiritual growth. She’s experienced the kind of kingdom-radical transformation most of us can only dream of. She was a poster girl for the parable life.
I asked her what was bugging her about other believers. Her answer: “People who should know better and be better just end up acting like the rest of the world.”
Haven’t we all sung that song? Maybe some of us sing accompanied by a banjo, and others by a full symphony orchestra, but the lyrics are always the same.
I asked her what she was doing with all her frustration and there was a half-beat pause. “I’m not really attending church right now because I can’t sit through any more long, repetitive services. I’m not really reading my Bible or praying…” And as she talked, she confessed that in some weird ways, she was becoming exactly what she disliked so intensely those around her – someone who knew how to play the game, but whose spiritual life was gradually being drained of power. Her disappointment and disillusionment with other believers were eroding a once-vibrant walk with Jesus. And she knew that few people in her life these days would be able to perceive the subtle cooling that had taken place in her once-fiery heart, precisely because she had learned to play everyone’s favorite Christian game, the Hypocrite Show.
The conversation was a good one, especially since I didn’t have to say much. As she confessed her struggles, she became acutely aware of the course correction she needed in her life. The bonus was that God used her struggle to convict me, as well. Smug judgementalism dogs me – I hate it in myself. (But something tells me I don’t hate it nearly enough, since it is a regular and familiar battleground in my life.)
Again and again in our lives, we have to come to terms with the hypocrites around us, and the hypocrisy that lurks in our own hearts. The beauty of the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee is that the poverty of the rich man was more precious to Jesus than the “righteous” performance of the religious man. It’s ironic that the moment we stand in judgement of those hypocrites, we are a hair’s-breadth away from becoming one of them.
Have you ever realized you were on the way to becoming what you hated in others’ lives? I’d love to hear about what made the lights go on in your heart.
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Update: The high drama of the church women’s summer book club’s loony choice of “The Secret” ended. (Kidding about the drama – to my knowledge, there wasn’t any, other than a couple of e-mails I sent) An announcement went out today – cancelled for lack of interest. Good – because it was a poorly-informed reading choice in this church’s context. Troubling – because the reasons for the “why” and “how” of this choice really need to be addressed. I’m not sure they will be.