The grief I have over this subject is almost overwhelming. It’s hard to find just the right words. Normally my fingertips flow in perfect synchronization with my brain, but my heart is getting in the way today.
Hypocrisy kept me out of church for a long time. You see, I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I wanted to still drink and smoke and cuss and cavort. I didn’t want to submit. I knew that I was still going to do those things, regardless of whether I went to church or not. I didn’t want to be just another hypocrite sitting on a church pew. Yes, we are all sinners. But being a repentant sinner and being an active hypocrite are two different things.
The word “repent” means to turn away from. In the military, when the leader says, “Re – Pent!” he is telling his guys to turn around. God is calling us to repentance. He is calling us to turn around, to come to Him and then go and sin no more. Is your body in the church house and your heart at the bar? I can’t tell you the times I sat in a bar, drunk, talking about God. You see, I knew better, but I didn’t want to surrender. So much wasted time, so much wasted life.
My reasoning was at least I wasn’t in church. At least I wasn’t a hypocrite like them. But now I know, you don’t have to drink, cuss, smoke, or cavort to be a hypocrite. There are much more subtler ways, many more dangerous ways.
How many people have we turned away from the house of God in our hurry to go to church or in our hurry to get home from church? How many suffering people have we zoomed by on our way to Christmas dinner? How many people have we offended in line at the grocery store, rushing to get home to make Sunday supper after church? How many waitresses have we been rude to while eating out? Do you know what the restaurant industry thinks about Christians? It’s a shame and inexcusable. How many people have we honked at in exasperation on our way to church?
Too many! Oh, God, forgive us for being so selfish, for setting a bad example, for being the hypocrites that we are prone to be!
From my own life, I have three stories that I want to share. I am in no way trying to exalt myself or my husband but to give glory to the God that lives in us. It is only by His grace that we have any of our own to give.
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
About three months ago on a Sunday morning, we were traveling to church. Nothing unusual about that. As we come into town, my husband and I notice an elderly black man in a wheelchair on the sidewalk. Again, nothing extraordinary about that either. Jimmy’s step-dad has been in a wheelchair for about 15 years. People in wheelchairs are normal to us.
And sadly, this next part, it’s not so unusual either.
The guy was stuck in some gravel. He couldn’t move. He had no use of his legs. He couldn’t help himself. He was jerking on the wheelchair, doing what he could but to no avail. It was evident from the ruts and the movement in the gravel that he had been there for a bit.
AND EVERYONE JUST KEPT DRIVING BY, PULLING INTO THEIR RESPECTIVE CHURCH PARKING LOTS ON THE CORNERS OF NEARBY STREETS.
What is wrong with these people?! Was he too dirty? Was he too black? I don’t understand. He wasn’t asking for a handout. He just wanted a hand.
It took a couple of minutes to get turned around, having to wait on all the traffic that kept passing by in order for us to get back across to him. One other man stopped to help Jimmy lift him out. It’s not like the other people didn’t see him. I saw them pointing, looking. But they just kept going, in too much of a hurry to get to church, not wanting to get their clothes dirty.
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
This was about two years ago. We were pulling out of our own church parking lot, along with everyone else that was leaving our church. Directly across the street was an older, bedraggled woman who was needing a ride, made evident by her thumb’s plea. People from my own church just pulled right past her. What?!
We picked her up and as it turns out, we were headed her way, about 30 minutes out of town.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Our car was loaded down with Christmas plunder from my dad’s as we made the three-hour journey to Jimmy’s mom’s. There was a man who was walking backwards and trying to thumb a ride. He was clean-shaven and dressed in typical East Texas garb—cowboy boots, jeans, and a button down shirt. It was Christmas Day, and the traffic was heavy. I looked at my husband as he passed the guy. He said, “There’s nowhere for him to sit!” And that was the truth. Our car was overflowing with our two kids, presents we had received, and presents we were going to give. I said that we would just have to make room.
So we flipped the car around and offered the guy a ride. Granted, he had to ride with a Darth Vader mask in his lap, but he was thankful for the ride.
He was on the way to his son’s funeral. It was sudden, as funerals often are. He had to get to Louisiana. He hadn’t intended to be going anywhere and had loaned his vehicle out and all of his friends were out of town. We took him as far as we could and then we bought him a bus ticket with the little money that we had. A few days later I got online and looked up the funerals in the city of Louisiana that he was going to. The guy was telling the truth.
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
The last story is not my own but one from the book “Under the Overpass.” This book was written by two college guys who left their nice, white families and traveled through America as indigents, unwashed and unshaven, to learn more about life from that perspective. They learned a lot. For instance, they learned that even though a church may advertise “Everyone Welcome” that they don’t really mean it.
Who are we passing by? And more importantly WHY are we passing them by? Who are we turning away? Not only from church but from God?
Why are our churches empty? Because people don’t want to sit next to hypocrites!
Stop being a hypocrite!
“I love the feeling I have after a powerful sermon, and I love the music and fellowship and relationship with the savior, but the Sunday Christians putting on airs when I know they were at the Caliente Club last night is just too much for me.” — from a non-church-going friend of mine
Why is our church worship dead? Because everyone is worried about how they will be judged by other Christians if they worship. What?!
“I want to raise my hands at church, but I feel guilty if I do.” — from a church-going friend of mine
Are we spending more time on our hair and wardrobe than we are in the prayer room?
Are we singing for our own vain glory? Are we shouting for our own glory?
Are we turning the Jehovah’s Witnesses away from our doors? What an opportunity to witness to them! But be careful—most of the time they know the Bible better than us Christians do. Why aren’t we out door-knocking? Are we too ashamed? Are we too busy? Are we too lazy?
What are we doing?! Somebody please help me understand.