I suppose hypocrisy is so easy to spot in others because it’s something pretty much all of us are guilty of. A man in the church passes judgement on the young folks for not tithing, and yet his offerings always come with strings attached. A Sunday School teacher gossips about a young mother for not taking her children to Sunday School, and yet never prays for or reaches out to the woman. A family stands out on a street corner protesting same-sex marriage, and yet their own marriage, rife with infidelity, deceit, and superficiality, looks nothing like their stated “biblical model” of marriage. An alcoholic looks down on a drug addict. A compulsive gambler says a pedophile lacks self control. Hypocrisy is everywhere. Throw a rock in any direction – you’ll likely hit a hypocrite. We’re all walking this earth with logs in our eyes. Continue reading
I tried to avoid adding to the rat’s nest of articles and opinions surrounding the VMA performance of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke, but my reading today in Romans brought the issue to the forefront of my mind. I’m not going to comment on the level of morality in the VMA performance, nor will I make any psychologically unfounded guesses as to the cause or reasoning behind the behavior. As I’ve said in a previous post, I’m not too keen on making judgements about someone I haven’t had a conversation with. What I’m more interested in is how Christians react to sin in other people. More specifically, why is it that so many folks who engage in everyday run-of-the-mill sins feel so free to make judgements on the morality of someone on a TV screen? Yes, we ought to find sin offensive if we are going to presume to follow a God who finds sin offensive. But lately, a lot of cyber-stones being thrown by folks who seem to have forgotten that we’re all guilty of something.
Maybe, even on a subconscious level, some of us feel that just because we didn’t personally get on stage and permanently ruin teddy bears for everyone, that God has given us a free pass on our less-noticed, more socially accepted sins. So today, let’s look at the mirror instead of the TV. Continue reading
You’ve probably heard people say that one should not simply say he is a Christian, but rather act like one. This, they say, is how the world will know he is a Christian.
Here’s the problem with this idea: as soon as we begin to say that our behavior is what identifies us as Christians, we start to categorize and define what we believe to be Christian behaviors. In other words, what does it mean to “act like a Christian”? If I passed out a questionnaire with that question to my (or any other American church) congregation and asked them to jot down ideas, I’m sure we would get a lot of “doing good” answers. Loving the outcasts. Feeding the hungry. Clothing the poor. Do right. Seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Help support orphans and widows. No doubt, these are all noble causes. They’re all commendable concerns. But there’s nothing uniquely Christian about them. One does not have to be a Christian to be a good person. Furthermore, one does not have to be a good person to be a Christian (Ephesians 2:8-9). Continue reading
I’ve had a lot of conversations I’m not proud of. Most of them happened in my middle school cafeteria between the fall of 1995 and the summer of 1998. Yesterday, I didn’t get far in my reading of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome before I recalled one such conversation my friends and I had over our lunches. It was one of those Christmas Story-ish exchanges young boys have that rarely results in anything good, let alone dignified. I can’t remember who, but somebody brought up the notion that it is impossible to lick one’s own elbow. Before long, arguments ensued, and most of us were trying ardently to be the first one to achieve the elusive self-elbow-lick. Some of us really believed it could be done. I probably would have achieved it if I hadn’t looked up and saw a table full of girls looking at us like we had hot dogs shooting out of our ears. Those who knew me in middle school know that I could not afford much social embarrassment such as this, so I prudently put my elbow down, holstered my tongue, and ate my peanut butter and banana sandwich. Long story short, nobody managed the feat that day.
I usually skim over things like lengthy greetings in biblical epistles (something my Bible college professors taught me not to do). But today, something caught my attention in the very first verse. In Romans 1:1, Paul introduces himself (which was customary) as someone who is set apart for the gospel of God. The Greek word for “set apart” is aphorizō, which, in a good sense, means “to appoint” or ” to set apart for some purpose.” The meaning of this seems typical and obvious enough – as Christians, we’re led to believe that we are set aside because of our faith, and that somehow our faith ought to result in things like good behavior, passing on traditions, keeping kids good, hiding from the world, and carelessly judging other people. But for Paul, a man whose experiences were much more vast and intense than most Bible readers’ experiences today, the use of aphorizō meant something much deeper. Continue reading