By B.J. Funk
“I don’t go to church because I know too much about those who do! They’re a bunch of hypocrites!”
How often have you heard that statement from someone who never goes to church? This seems to be the number one complaint of those who desire to remain outside. Sometimes, they even give examples of individual hypocrisy, labeling the particular sin(s) associated with a name.
What made those outside the church think that we try to get on the front row of the sanctuary, just to be seen, then afterward we sit down on ivory benches, holding our noses in the air because we think nobody is as good as us? Where did that silly nonsensical idea come from anyway?
What you are thinking is right. It comes from us. It comes from those inside the church who have never caught on to what sin and redemption is all about. It comes from the redeemed among us, as well as the smug among us. Unfortunately, we are giving the wrong image of the churched, and the unchurched are listening. And watching. And forming opinions.
So, what’s the truth about those of us inside the church?
We live inside of Revelation 3:15-16. We are neither hot nor cold. We are lukewarm and rather like it this way. That way we can stay out of arguments, away from announcing our beliefs, and remain in our comfortable pews.
We are the prodigal son from Luke, demanding our inheritance and running away from our Father’s protection.
We are Jacob cheating Esau out of his birthright and scheming with his mother to trick his father, Isaac.
We are David, wanting Bathsheba so much that he arranged for her husband to be killed in the line of duty.
We are one of the disciples, running away on that dreadful night when Jesus was betrayed. Are we Judas? Oh, surely not! Are we Thomas, doubting the reality of the resurrection?
We are just like the sinners mentioned in the Bible. We have the tendency to fall into temptation just as those outside of church. We cry when we spill our milk, we get angry when someone hurts us, we fuss with the idea of forgiveness and sometime, we gossip and – oh help us, Lord – we act like we are better than anyone else.
No wonder then. No wonder. How can we change our image? Where do we even start?
An ancient hymn, written in the 1800s by William Featherstone is a good place to start; it begins with loving Jesus and welcoming the intimate relationship he offers. It moves in the second verse to acknowledging that Jesus died for us. The third verse confesses our love for Jesus, stating I will love him in life and in death. The last verse says that I will love Jesus in the mansions in heaven and that I will continue to adore him.
“My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine; For thee all the follies of sin I resign. My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou; If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, tis now.”
Those words make me feel safe, wanted, loved, saved. Redeemed. And completely knowing that I am his and he is mine.
In the second verse I feel I am where I belong. I am with the Master of my soul who makes arrangements to be with me. The third verse proclaims: “I’ll love thee in life, I will love thee in death.” The last verse speaks of a “glittering crown” on our brow, while the writer is exclaiming “I still love you!”
This hymn is a love song from beginning to end. And therein lies the secret to a Christian’s authentic life, the answer to our every question and the antidote for hypocrisy. LOVE. Be the love song.
B.J. Funk is Good News’ long-time devotional columnist and author of It’s A Good Day for Grace, available on Amazon.