Posts Tagged hypocrisy

Magnified

1 John 4: 8

God is love.

Every congregation around the world has talked about this passage of scripture. We have heard time and time again that God is love but its deepest truths have yet to permeate our Christian cultures and our individual hearts.

To know God is to love. Every person who says they know God must have come to know Him as love. We must, at the very deepest levels, understand that He loves us, but further, we must grasp what it means for God’s nature to be love. Anyone who does not know love, does not know God. It is that simple.

I am listening to an audiobook, a work of fiction. The fictional world in which the characters live is populated by many different people all, who serve different Gods. The overtones of religious hypocrisy are rampant. It caused me to think of our God and our expression of who He is. The atrocities perpetuated by the characters in the book in the name of their Gods, unfortunately, mirrors the same challenges the church of Christ has endured. For me this has become a simple matter, at least theologically. Evangelism must be based in love and motivated by love. All else is both meaningless, at best, and damaging.

In driving through town one day, I saw a car painted with, what was clearly meant to be, an evangelical message. However, the words did anything but magnetize one towards Christ. In fact, I, a Christian, was repelled by the message, even offended. Presumptively, the person driving the car, the one who painted the message, was attempting to populate heaven. The message was not filled, however, with the essence of God which is love.

Sooner or later the church must decide and subsequently adopt an attitude and philosophy of love. We must first, give ourselves over to God’s love, allowing Him to love us in our deepest thoughts and feelings. As we allow ourselves to receive uncompromising love, we will be competent to tell others about the love of God. Only love draws people to God. Theology does not and hell does not. Even the promise of heaven is too vague for most people to appreciate and fathom. We needed acceptance when we were lost and flailing. We found that in our Father who accepted us as we were, even with all our scars and blemishes. We fail, however, to extend that same grace to others and I believe it is because we have yet to fully immerse ourselves in the love the Father offers us.

To my way of thinking, there is no evangelism outside of love. The world does not need us criticizing and damning them. They are not drawn to condemnation nor do they see us as more holy than they when our dialogue is full of hateful expressions instead of love. Don’t tell me you love God when you spit vitriol at His children. It is a vulgar lie. We can no longer afford the luxury of pious self-promotion while people are dying and going to hell. Others are leaving the church because they see hate and judgment. If the church is to grow and function as it was meant to, then we must make the choice to love. It is not our job to decide who goes to hell. Our job is to make hell a wasteland. Eventually, as a body and as individuals, we must embrace love and allow it to color our lives. If God is love, then our only choice is to exercise love. If we are to march in the name of our God then we cannot kill, steal or destroy in His name. This is the message of our times. The first step of this age is: embrace love. Let it fill you and let it be reflected in you. We can’t be mean-spirited and imitate Jesus. We can no longer afford to cause harm in the name of Jesus. That is not his way nor our commission. The gospel is good news and all people, when they encounter us, should have a brush with unfathomable love. Jesus told people that the Kingdom of God had come near them. People will only see the Kingdom and its power when we accomplish step one, adopt love. There is no step two until we achieve step one. Let love guide you, let it fill you. Let God be magnified by magnifying love.

The Character of Love

Romans 12: 9 – 10

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.  

The Apostle Paul cuts us no slack. He was called by God to receive and deliver the revelation of Christ to the world and with a calling that big he just didn’t have time to mince words. We can skate over the first two sentences fairly easily but that last one creates immediate friction. There is a foot note on the last sentence which reads, “outdo one another in showing honor.” To do otherwise is to paint our love with hypocrisy. That is a hard message Paul.

So what are we to do? I have to begin with the most powerful prayer I know, “Help me Lord.” I know I cannot do this in my own strength. My soul wants to defend and promote itself. There is only one way. Of course, he, Jesus is that way. But how do I avail myself of the way? Ivey must die and be buried. In her place must be the life of Christ which is my right and my inheritance and in whom I can do all things. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2: 20). 

I remember when God began teaching me this lesson in a loud way. I was still practicing law. There was a person who had made a mistake but instead of owning up to it he lied and made up a story about my practice. Well, I was incensed when I heard this lie and not one to take things lying down. I had my guns loaded and was headed to town when God stopped me. He told me that I was not allowed to defend myself. What? A lawyer is primed for these moments. I was not only confused but also astounded. My reputation was at stake and I valued my reputation but God was teaching me a new thing and it did not involve my might, and my power but rather His spirit (Zechariah 4: 6). Although I lived by the strength of my arguments and persuasive personality I loved God more, but believe me, this was hard. God used my training against me too. He showed me that when I represented a client, I was the one who spoke for him. He did not speak and defend himself. Jesus is my counselor and advocate. It is His job to defend me and to speak for me. Now, I do not say this is easy but for those who love Christ, it is the command.

We have a clear directive from our Lord, “Give preference to others over your own preferences. Honor them.” We can determine in our hearts to do just that and it works fine when you are associated with other Christians who have decided to make Christ first in their lives. I have a friend that makes this so easy. She is a blessing, and blessing others is what she does. I recently tried to bless her and she out blessed me. You can’t promote her enough because she turns around and honors the one trying to honor her. She is a living example of this verse so we end up just blessing one another. It is great! 

What happens, though, when you encounter that person who is self-absorbed, who makes everything about them and their preferences? Okay, now it gets hard. Your personality and your human character kick in and begin to push back. You may not want “everything” to be about you but you begin to feel like you’ve been run over by a truck.” This is when Christ has to be big in your life because you will need all of his strength. If you have truly died to self and are living to Christ then the things of the world don’t impact you and this is easy for you. If, instead, you are like many of us and have not completely buried that old man or are very good at resurrecting him when you feel a threat then this is going to push a few buttons. My advice is to stop and take a deep breath. Don’t say anything until you can get out of the flesh and back into Jesus. Then bring Jesus up before your eyes. Put your mind on his word. Remind yourself that nothing is more important that your love for him and his commands. It is not much consolation that you are the one acting mature and the other person is just selfishly denying Christ’s commands but it is God’s job to promote and honor you and you will receive from him what the devil steals from you through these selfish people. Give Jesus glory by honoring the command in today’s verse and he will turn around and shine that glory on you. It’s hard, I know, but your love for Jesus is bigger than any challenge. Be blessed.