“The Church is full of hypocrites! I don’t want to go to church until I can look God in the eye.” Cry me a river. This is the most pathetic statement I hear as an excuse for not going to church. Why? Doesn’t it sound sincere and condemnatory at the same time. Oh, it’s brilliant as a cop-out. It worthless in the long run. I am always tempted to respond, “There’s always room for one more.”
I know it sounds noble to say that I want to clean up my life and be a good person before I go to God’s house. Imagine if the Prodigal Son said that? There in the pigpen, with a sincere desire to go back home, but forcing himself to stick it out as an act of holiness so that he can life himself up and prove he can be a good person on his own. This is works-based heathen religion thoroughly. It is the faith of Cain, jealous of his brother Abel. Do you ever wonder if Cain thought his “holier-than-thou” brother was a hypocrite? All that dude does is bring a sheep to the altar. I brought all the hard work of my labor in the field. What a loser! I know what’s he’s like on Monday morning. There’s no way God would accept his pathetic sacrifice of a lamb over bounty that I’m bringing. It’s like he’s not even trying.
But like Cain, many are continually flabbergasted at God’s acceptance of humble sheep against their hard work of self-improvement. All they have to say is “Hypocrite!”
Christians today struggle with holiness. And I believe that the lost have a higher regard for what holiness looks like than most Christians. The lost are looking for saints. The lost are comparing their half-heard Bible storied from Sunday School with the “Christians” they see everyday and find them wanting. Yes. The lost are comparing us to their best memories of the saints of Scripture. And they are using that as the reason they can’t come to church. We are not as faithful nor as holy nor as consistent as their dear sweet grandmother who took them to church as s child. We are not as holy as the heroes of the Bible they learned about as a child. Is it an unfair comparison? Absolutely. But it takes place everyday.
Every misstep you make in the name of Jesus can and will be used as a reason someone doesn’t come to church. Every lost temper, every betrayal, every weak moment, every time you are not on your game is an excuse to cry “hypocrite!” And another soul offers this as proof that Christians aren’t any better than anyone else. Why bother?
Hosea reminds us today that the internal motivations like love and mercy and the knowledge of God are more important than physical acts of piety. If our love and knowledge is lacking, then our piety looks and feels fake. And we are hypocrites.
Keep that in mind this week.