Sunday, 28 June 2015

Excuse me while I laugh nervously

I'm guilty. I was one of those who laughed nervously pretending to be sanctimonious and self-righteous.

At our church service this morning, I was hoping to be granted clemency - ex cathedra if you will, of my sanctimonious and self-righteous views on sexual equality, rights, etc. Well, I did receive clemency, but not the way I had envisioned. I wanted to see a finger appear on the wall writing... "MENE, MENE, TEKEL and UPHARSIN" as it appeared in Daniel 5 with the addition of "THE SECOND ACT" in parentheses. And, then we could all look at each other smugly and say, "See, even God is angry with them! All those people who promote gay pride and homosexual marriage...SHAME!!" We'd sit back and wait for that huge thunderbolt to strike them all dead, wipe our hands, impatiently wait for the minister to say 'AMEN', go down to the fellowship hall, have a coffee, maybe go for a smoke, utter a mildly offensive joke, and complain to our fellow parishioner that there're too many people on welfare and that they are all bums, (or something similar). And, nervously we might laugh hoping the Right Reverend, Pastor, or Father didn't hear our conversation.

The fact is: many Christians (and, too often myself) are pretty good at pointing out the trespasses and missteps of others and refuse to acknowledge the existence of damning sins in our own lives. Jokingly, we make homophobic comments about how God sent a rainstorm to dampen the gay pride parade, but don't mind watching Modern Family. We ignore racial slurs made by fellow Christians against the Jewish community - ignoring that Jesus and the early church were of Jewish descent. Under aged drinking, while prohibited by law, is condoned by many Christian parents, but at the same time we acknowledge that God places government in authority and commands subordination. For other well intentioned Christians, working on Sunday is discouraged, but we become impatient and intolerant when the internet and cable service is interrupted during our 'day of rest'. I don't need to go on...I hope you get the point.

Sadly, we've all heard the accusation that the church is full of hypocrites. And, regrettably, I can't say I disagree - even when I look at my own life I see areas of blatant hypocrisy. Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV), “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." Think about that for a while. Is your brother or sister's spec materialism, or immodesty? Is your plank  greed, envy, or alcoholism? It's a sobering reminder that we ALL have fallen short of the glory of God.

So, before we get on our high horse and shout, "Thank you God that I'm glad I'm not like that guy who is dancing provocatively in the pride parade", we better practice honest repentance and clean out our own closet of skeletons. Isn't it true that it hurts less to point out the perceived faults of others than look truthfully at our own condition?

Am I suggesting that Christians should stay quiet on issues that we feel are contrary to living a life as Jesus did/would? No. However, in a world where actions and pictures speak louder than words, be careful that in your zeal to defend Christianity from the slings and arrows of so-called liberalism, you are not wounding Jesus simultaneously. To quote Ravi Zacharias, "There is no greater apologetic to win others to Christ than through the visible actions of your own life." At the same time, there is no greater way to turn people away from Christ than through your actions.

I didn't witness any writing on the wall this morning. I didn't hear the minister make bold statements on sexual morality. I did see something else on the wall of our sanctuary though - the empty cross. It reminded me of my own clemency. It reminded me that no matter what you or I have done - if you've been married 6 times, aborted a baby, been wasted 100, a 1000 times, stolen a million dollars, known the depths of pornographic addiction - whatever it is/was - if you believe in Jesus and his saving grace and have turned to him in repentance, know that you've been forgiven and He expects nothing in return.

I pray that this would be true for you. If it is, I promise - you won't see a smug smile, or hear any nervous laughter of embarrassment from me, but only humble tears and a joyful cry of thanks to our faithful savior, Jesus Christ.