Jeremiah 26: 8-15
Psalm 52: 1-8
Luke 13: 31-35
“Church of Hypocrites”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
One of the most dangerous things that destroys any body of people is when the collective are unable to recognize, or at least are unwilling to recognize, their own sinful actions. Sure the collective are unified in their sinfulness, but from the outside they are disenfranchised and become an anathema, eventually dying out as the numbers dwindle. Such masses become so insignificant that it is almost as if they are already dead. In the end it is their pride that did them in, pride that dug for them their early grave.
Such pride has even led to such groups to fragment as one group unabashedly believe in once horrendous belief and instead of realizing how wrong they are they ignore all that trouble their conscience, separating from those who cause them mental pain or kicking out those who points out such faults, creating fractures in a once unified group.
Now I’m not talking about differences in opinions or perspectives, but differences caused by pride that leads people to get so swelled up that they are incapable of not only repenting but also seeing the sin; for if you did not sin then what need is there to repent?
This has been a troublesome reality that I’ve seen in many churches, to include Lutheran Churches, for though we claim to be sinners many are still incapable of truly acknowledging when they mess up. Some go so far as to claim that the action they committed was void of sin or even claim that that which the Bible clearly classifies as a sin is actually not a sin, thus allowing them to hold firmly on to their fragile over inflated egos. Some may claim that they are wretched rags who do not deserve grace and are ever thankful that the Lord God died on the cross to forgive them of their sins. I am grateful that such people exist, and would deeply encourage them to remember this with every fiber of their being. But then I am horrified when such people immediately get defensive and downright abusive when you point out their sinful actions. Who me? How dare you claim I did such! I’m a good Christian, I do not do that!
The thing is we all can get a little defensive for no one likes it when their sins are exposed. We are sinners, so we do sin, but it is because we are sinners that we also do not want to see our sins for sin is darkness and darkness loves to remain in the dark, never getting exposed by the light. Sin loves hiding its ugliness, masking itself in the open so that it can parade around as acceptable. As Sinners we love our sins, so much so that we can’t help our selves when we sin, and then we do everything in our power to make it so that we don’t feel guilty. We either sweep the sins under a rug, or we put a pretty mask on it so that the world accepts and appreciate our sinful actions. One of the most painful things a Christian can do is rip that mask off.
Once the mask comes off the benefits are boundless for even though we may feel pain by exposing our ugliness, as Christians we know that we have a savior who washes us of our sins so long as we are repentant. If we leave the mask on then the guilt and shame and filthiness mixes with the pleasure and hatred of the Law and... It just becomes a huge mess as emotions and denial of emotions swirl together in an ugly mishmash that makes hypocrites of all that participate in the mask up culture. But if the mask that hides sin comes off then you can’t help but see it for what it is and knowledge of Christ’s amazing grace and eternal promise would compel you to bow down at the feet of the cross asking for forgiveness. And Christ will forgive you.
To look sin in its face, the actual sins that we ourselves commit, is an incredibly painful process. No wonder why we prefer as fallen humans to claim we did not sin. But ignoring sin does not get rid of it. We may not feel the pain, but that does not mean the pain is not there. The thing is, though we hate pain, because it hurts and we naturally do not want to suffer nor cause suffering, pain is a good thing for the purpose of pain is to point us to something bad. Sin is bad and it is sin that causes us true turmoil. The shame and guilt we have when we sin, though painful, is good for it points us to the sin.
A carpenter was once working with wood and he felt a sharp pain in his hand. He looked down and saw a splinter in his finger. He removed the splinter and his finger healed without any pain the rest of the day. His coworker the next day felt a similar pain, but out of fear of removing splinters he decided to put on gloves and take some pain medication, only to develop a nasty infection.
A hard worker once felt a pain in his knees, got it checked up and was told by the doctor that with a simple procedure the pain issue will be resolved. A different worker was also feeling pain in his knees but saw that the prior was out of commission for several days and out of hubris decided to ignore the pain. With each day the pain got worst and still the worker ignored the pain, until finally he had to give up his job indefinitely.
Acknowledging sin is painful, because no one wants to acknowledge that they have sinned and suffer the guilt and shame associated with such knowledge. Yet Jesus came into the world for us sinners, us hypocrites, to cleanse us of our sins. Through him, so long we are repentant of our sins, we are purified and sanctified. He wipes away our guilt and shame and tells us we don’t need to feel guilty because he has eradicated the cause of such, the sin of which we are repentant of. Thus the pain is no more because the sin which caused the pain is no more. But the first step to repentance is to acknowledge the sin we are to be repentant of.
This is the trouble that Jeremiah faced in Judah, and all prophets, as noted by Jesus, who go to Jerusalem. God sends his prophets for many reasons, and one such reason is to redirect sinners back towards God while promising punishment if they do not. This is what happened to Jonah, who preached fire and brimstone to Nineveh only for God to relent because all of Nineveh repented. Unfortunately, that was not the case with Jeremiah. He preached fire and brimstone on Judah, and Judah balked at him, and wished him death.
Jeremiah was a messenger, completely innocent, sent by God to warn Jerusalem of her evil ways and lead her straight. Jeremiah was to warn her that if she kept on with her wickedness then she will fall. Jerusalem did not like hearing that, and such accusation was too much for them as their rage blazed hot. How dare you accuse our actions as evil! Their pride was too much. Their delicate sensibilities couldn’t handle the stress of seeing fault in their actions. How dare God disagree with us! Jerusalem had become a den of thieves, a lair of evil, a church of hypocrites. They claim one thing, but get so easily offended when the Word of God troubles their conscience, exposing the filth they truly had become. And it’s not like God didn’t give them a way out. He always leaves room for repentance, for Jeremiah said in our first reading on verse 13, “therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you.”
Regardless, Jerusalem could not repent. Their hypocrisy got the better of them as they increased their evil actions and hide behind vain glory. Eventually Jerusalem and all of Judah fell. All they had to do was repent, but because they couldn’t face their sins, they received their just reward.
This is something that has played out throughout history, especially in churches. Many of our early church fathers were exiled for pointing out sins such as St Athanasius and St John Chrysostom. Martin Luther was kicked out of the church for pointing out that some practices do not align with the Bible. And to this day there are pastors and parishioners out there whose lives get ruined by a congregation or denomination because they dare point out the wicked practices conducted by such.
All such are hypocrites, who believe in the saving grace of Christ, but get angry when their sins get exposed. But then again, all of us are hypocrites, because all of us have sinned and out of shame have decided to sweep some of our sins under a rug. Know this, Christ died for even hypocrites, always extending a helping hand full of grace and mercy to those who need a gentle nudge, and sometimes a not so gentle nudge, to face our sins. As for those who are able to boldly proclaim that they are a sinner, blessed are they, for Christ came to save them.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, when we stumble help us to not get angry when others try to help us up but to act in humility as we repent of our sins, knowing that through repentance we are indeed forgiven. In your name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.