Religions people are some of the most difficult people I know. I’m not talking about people who actually love Jesus, whose life is all about pursuing him – I’m talking about your standard every-day-run-of-the-mill church people. If you’ve been a guest at a church and been offended by someone who (not very politely) let you know you were sitting in their seat, you might know who I am talking about.
The thing is, we all have great potential to be just that - churchy, religious, overbaked, self-righteous. Maybe not overbaked, maybe undercooked. I don’t know. Either not quite done or way too done or maybe a little bit of both.
Hypocrisy really burns me up. I know who I am, I know my exact faults, I don’t pretend to be something I’m not. I’m very honest about the fact that I am rough around the edges. Way less so than a 20 years ago, this time last year, or even a week ago. I’m in progress. The work is not done yet. The Holy Spirit is still working it out in my life, and I am letting him. I even went to a co-worker today and told him I was sorry for being a jerk. 15 years ago I would have beaten him and then laughed about it. I wish I was kidding.
I have never tried to make people feel bad for messing up. One time I went to a party (many moons ago) and got a little polluted. The next day I was confronted by some kids from church and they really laid it on thick, how Jesus was so ashamed, and how God was crying, how I needed to repent (For the record, I’m not a drinker these days, but I had the potential to be the fat dude in the corner that could outdo everyone when I was a kid). These same kids were sexually active, disobedient to their parents, disprespectful, and you already knew this but very judgemental.
It’s a conundrum, wrapped in an oxymoron, wrapped in a holier than thou. Wrapped in a tortilla. A corn one. I can’t wrap my mind around it to be honest. Every church where I’ve been on staff we had people like this. Every church I’ve been a member of has had people like this. I wonder if I’m like that sometimes and to keep from it I examine myself daily because to be blunt it makes me really mad. I think this type of behavior is disagreable to God too. How he actually feels I don’t know but that part of me that is him really doesn’t like seeing it.
An oxymoron is a figure of speech with contradictory terms – business ethics, rap music, true story, deficit spending. A churchy Christian is a living oxymoron. AKA a hypocrite.
It’s a distressing and difficult question - a conundrum. You probably hear it often enough how we are not supposed to judge people (Jesus said it in Matt 7). This little snippet of scripture is used to justify everything that anybody wants to do that they know is wrong but want to do anyway. If people would bother to read the whole passage, they would notice Jesus is talking to hypocrites to start with. The point is, a hypocrite has no basis of judgement because their lives are all out of whack – their standard of judgement is self, and when they stand in judgement over others they are in fact judging themselves guilty. See what he did there?
All those self-righteous people have already condemned themselves and they are probably not smart enough to understand it.
So how can we be true to the Word, stand for Truth, and not come across as a judgy, self-righteous prat? The thing is, Jesus was not telling us not to judge, he was telling us how to judge – not in hypocrisy, and not out of hate, but out of love, in humility, not superiority.
Galatians 6:1 says this – “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” The qualifications for judging another person are, you should be spiritual – seeking Christ daily – you should be seeking to restore the person gently, not dragging them through the mud and definitely not holding their sins against them or thinking you are better than them. And you had darned well better not have sin in your life.
If you are honest in your pursuit to restore a person, then God will be with you in it. If not, judge not, or you will be judged with the same standard that you are judging. It’s a fine line, and we are called to walk it, but we must walk it carefully, prayerfully, and with the Holy Spirit as a guide.