Piety shoots us in the foot every time as Christians. Looks like we would have learned something from those who have stumbled before us. Whether it’s the politician who runs on a Judeo-Christian platform and later gets caught in a scandal, or a pastor of a church that suffers a public moral failing, their earlier piety comes back to haunt them. And it takes a big bite out of the Bride of Christ.
Whether it’s a person running for Congress, a pastor of a mega church, or the PTA president, we cannot hold the fact that we have chosen to follow Jesus up as any kind of litmus test for our approval by others. I hate to hear the phrase, “Oh, he’s a good Christian man.” I’d much rather hear, “He tries to live his life for Jesus.” The former leaves no room for that guy’s human failings and shortcomings. The latter, however, makes space for those days when he fails.
Christians, as a group, tend to try to present themselves as perfect. Perfect families, perfect marriages, perfect children. No one ever fusses in a Christian home. No one who claims Christianity ever has a relationship issue, or a moral struggle, or a secret sin. (gasp!) Christians, as a group, want to present themselves as having it all together, as Christ had it all together. This takes huge effort. Trying to present oneself as consistently without flaw is hard work! Never letting anyone know there is a struggle in any area of life ultimately sets a person up for failure. Eventually, they will fall in that very area they are so desperately trying to hide from the world. And when they do… the finger pointing at Christianity starts. The naysayers have their heyday.
“I thought he was a Christian!”
“See, Christians are just a bunch of fakes!”
It’s true… lots of Christians are fakes. They have bought into the lie that says we have to present ourselves as spotless to the world. That’s not what the Bible says. It says, the Bride of Christ (the Church- all who follow Jesus for all of time) needs to present itself to Jesus as spotless… When? On the day of his return. Until that day, we have a lot of work to do, and Jesus has a lot of work to do in us. It’s time we get honest about that, and leave the fake behind, for only Jesus can make his Bride spotless. (Ephesians 5)
Our job here is to bring as many people into the faith with us as we can, but why would anyone want to be a part of a faith full of a bunch of fakes? If we are pretending to be something we are not, by definition, we are fakes. I recently heard a story from an adult woman who told this of her own mother, now deceased.
“My mother was a completely different woman on Sundays at church than she was at home with us. At church, she always put on a smile and acted like she was so happy. At home… she was a hard woman. No one ever knew.”
The Christian church culture has been afraid of letting everyone else, both in and out of the church, know we are not perfect. There must be something wrong with us if we fail to have our act together all the time. We paint on smiles and parade our perfect families in front of everyone at church so they can see how Christlike we are.
In the words of a good friend, “That’s shinanigans!”
Jesus said to the pious religious folk of his day (and he is saying it to the pious religious folk of today), the he came not for the healthy, but for the sick. (Mark 1:17) He never expected us to have it all together. We come to him in all our brokenness, in all our sin, and he fixes us up. Oh, he fixes a few things instantly, but then the rest is a process of sanctification that requires great effort over the rest of our stay here in this life.
Any good that we are, any way that we look anything like Jesus is certainly not of our own doing, and nothing that we should be all pious and braggy about.
Check out how Paul explains it:
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:1-10
It’s time the church realizes it’s not about us and how we present ourselves to the world. It’s about how we present Jesus to the world. It’s time we take off our masks and admit that there was a time we needed a Savior, we needed Jesus… and that time is just as much now as it was then. Without him, we would be lost. As a church, we have to let go of appearances and show the world our flaws. We must tell of how Jesus has worked in our lives to bring about healing, and how we are so thankful he is not done working on us yet. Let’s fling open the doors and let people see that Bride. That’s a Bride everyone can love.