When I was in junior high people began throwing around the word, “hypocrite” like it was free candy. It was an especially popular concept in Christian circles as we used it to judge anybody who held any sort of ethical standard for us. All being sinners ourselves, we knew that any legalist who gave us a “thou shalt” could not live up to any ethical standard themselves. So we dismissed any ethicist with the word, “hypocrite.”
It was at that time that I realized it was almost impossible for a true Christian to actually be a hypocrite. My thinking went that if the central confession of our faith was that we are all sinners in need of a savior, then sinning did not make us hypocrites. It made our message truer.
That is a fairly dangerous thought process from an uneducated middle schooler. It runs us really close to antinomianism, the idea that we should go on sinning so that grace may increase.
But I still think there is a shred of truth there. After all, we are not the sinning community but we are the confessional community. One of our pillars has always been confessing our sins, airing our dirty laundry for all to see. This does not mean we are the most church when we go on sinning. But we are the most church when we confess our sins, hanging them out for all to see while we pray for the God of forgiveness to deliver us.
There have been those this week who have suggested that having honest discussions about our church’s shortcomings are hurting our witness to the world. They seem to be caught up in the 1950s mindset that the church can only be effective in mission if we are sinless and conflict free.
They want us to hide behind vague cliches like, “You are hurting the church” and “You are making our witness less effective.”
I disagree. First the church is all ready hurting. We are hurting not because of the actions of any one person or the existence of any one crisis but because we are the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus. Our scars and bruises and pain only magnify Christ that much more.
Second, our witness does not rest on our own power or might. If you read Acts 1:8 Jesus does not say, “Go and try to witness.” Jesus issues a promise, “You WILL be witnesses” whether you like it or not.
I write all this to give us hope. If our faith rested in our own deeds and sinlessness than this would be a time of despair. But as our denomination confesses some of our dirty laundry, I am buoyed by hope, hope in a God who will make us witnesses, a God who will reveal God’s nature and self through these trying and hurting times, a God who uses situations like these to draw us all closer to the cruciform lamb, standing as though slain.
I am reminded of the closing words of Charles Dickens, “Tale of Two Cities” and they are my sentiments and prayer today:
“I see a beautiful [church] and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives. . .peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy.”
Keep on fighting for transparency and justice and know your toil in the Lord is not in vain!