Today I am going to offer a gently read post from the past. Today it is not because I am lazy or really busy. I am repeating this post because I have been receiving a lot of emails about Christians behaving badly. While that is always disappointing such behavior should never come as a big surprise. Today’s repeat was actually the first iPod Devotional that I published. I hit the old shuffle button over a year ago and it became immediately apparent that God does indeed have a sense of humor.
The song that came up was Smiling Faces Sometimes from a group called Undisputed Truth. The song was originally recorded by the Temptations but the version released by Undisputed Truth in 1971 became the number 3 song that year. What delicious irony that the guy who wrote When Bad Christians Happen to Good People gets a song about hypocrites for the debut of this little experiment.
Here are the opening lyrics from that song…
Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend
Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within
Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don’t tell the truth uh
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof
I get hundreds of letters (okay…emails) from wounded Christians who could have started their note with those lyrics. They have been hurt and betrayed by other churchgoers, often with smiling faces. I try to encourage them. I remind them that we are all human. I ask them to look to Jesus. I try to communicate that I have felt and do feel the pain that they are experiencing. But everytime I hit send I am saddened that we allow this to happen in the body of Christ. Sometimes I am downright ticked off that any of us allow our agenda and self-absorption to overpower the awe inspiring gift of grace that brought us together in the first place. Not many things seemed to anger Jesus more than hypocrites. Listen to these comments directed to the religious leaders.
“How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy–full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisees! First wash the inside of the cup, and then the outside will become clean, too.
“How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs–beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. You try to look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
“Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?
Does that sound like the happy, happy Jesus that we like to portray? In a handful of verses He called the self-righteous leaders hypocrites, lawless, filthy inside, and sons of vipers. Ouch. Jesus was righteously furious. And He was furious over phony faith. Compare His tender response to repentant sinners. It is clear that Jesus wants honest hearts and maybe, just maybe, that is why He preferred to hang out with the not so self-righteous.
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such despicable people–even eating with them! Luke 15 NLT
Oh no!!! Eating with sinners! And yet I still see that ugly scenario playing out everyday. We find safety in surrounding ourselves with others just like us. The lifestyles of the lost and not so famous are uncomfortable to us. So we take the safe route. I think Jesus loved being with the “sinners” because they realized their condition. They offered no excuses. They were eager to hear how this remarkable teacher would address that condition.
Just like the pharisees I can clean up the outside real purty. But God knows what lies beneath. It is scary and painful and ugly to allow the Holy Spirit to start cleaning out the dirt, the dead bones, and everything unclean. But we will never experience God the way He desires to relate to us unless we are willing to do just that. Frankly I don’t see the point of being a Sunday Christian. If this is real we need to pursue it seven days a week. The hardest truth I have had to admit as a husband, father, follower of Jesus is that I make time for those things that are a priority to me. There can be short time diversions for work or circumstance. But over the weeks and months how I spend my time and how I live my life reveals my heart. That is a hard truth.
Our iPod selection goes on…
Your enemy won’t do you no harm
Cause you’ll know where he’s coming from
Don’t let the handshake and the smile fool ya
Take my advice I’m only try’ to school ya
Isn’t that what hurts us so much when someone in the church does the wounding? We don’t expect it. We are not prepared at all to get sucker punched by a family member. But it happens in the church. Smiling faces do sometimes tell lies. Smiling churchgoers sometimes do great damage.
But there is another possibility. Smiling faces that love others like Jesus can still change this world. And, in my heart, that is undisputed truth.