Curing Religious Hypocrisy

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I know it is rare to find religious hypocrisy today, but that was far from the case in the first century. Hypocrisy was rampant, and Jesus spent much of his time teaching people the cure.

In the first century, the church was divided. As odd as it may sound, though they worshipped the same God, they allowed theological distinctives to divide them. Some believed in an afterlife, some didn’t, and others said it really wasn’t an important discussion.

But the crazy thing is that these groups acted as if they were not worshipping the same God. They met in different places, had different leaders, and some refused to talk to the others!

Each group even had its own ceremonial bath outside the temple and would charge a fee to use it. When you did, it not only fulfilled your ritual requirement, but meant you were signing up for their sub-group. Which did Jesus choose? Was he pro-afterlife, pro-mortality, or pro-this-doesn’t-matter?

How about none of the above? Instead of giving into the isolating sub-groupings, Jesus went out to a river. He opted out of the whole system altogether.

If only theological division were the end of it. The hypocrisy went on to compromise one of the most important pieces of their faith: personal holiness. Holiness was important because God’s people were supposed to live as an example to the world. It was a blessing to seek to try to live more and more like God. But they completely missed the point.

God’s people were using their personal holiness to inflict pain on the rest of their world. Some were so consumed with self-righteousness that they actually thought they had stopped sinning!

What was Jesus’ cure? How did he respond? In a confrontation with some of these self-righteous religious leaders, Jesus pointed out that he had only come for the “sick” people.

Jesus didn’t yell or get into a theology debate. He let their self-righteousness do what it does so well: paralyze their growth and alienate them from those who need help.

Jesus didn’t stop there. Jesus took it upon himself to rescue the victims of self-righteous attacks. Jesus stepped in between the hate-fueled rocks and the shamed soul about to be stoned because of her sin. Jesus reminded those wielding holiness as a weapon that if sin required death, then everyone should be executed.

The pinnacle of the first-century hypocrisy was hung on the wall of their church building. God’s people were supposed to be the means by which God blessed all the nations. Yet, on the wall of their church was a sign that read “the foreigner who passes this wall will bear the responsibility for their resulting death.”

How did Jesus react? What was his remedy for the height of religious hypocrisy? He turned over the tables that were in front of this wall. He used their own scriptures to remind them that this place was to be a place of prayer for all the nations. He reminded them that God had destroyed their church walls before and would do it again.

I know it’s hard to imagine 2,000 years later a world where church people separate themselves from non-churchgoers, where people of faith become self-righteous, and where those who are worshipping the same God fight amongst themselves over theological nuance.

If we ever did find ourselves in a place filled with this sort of religious hypocrisy, we could take heart to know that Jesus showed us the cure.

Jesus showed us the way to focus on our God rather than the unimportant theological minutiae.

He showed us that holiness is a gift, not a weapon.

Most of all, Jesus showed us that no religious idea or structure can separate us from his love and grace. It is available to everyone everywhere. All we have to do is ask.

via AL.com

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5 Simple Ways to Keep Skeptics Out of Church

The Bible clearly says in Mark 2:17 that Jesus came for those who know they are righteous (ok, it says the opposite, but we all know he didn't mean it). This all means that we must be careful to keep skeptics, atheists and the like out of the church.  After much research and even having to talk to some of these godless heathens, I have some simple tips to help you keep them far away from the church and even farther from God.  

  1. Talk as if there is one, unanimous Christian viewpoint on controversial issues. There is only one way to think as a Christian.  There is only one right viewpoint on controversial issues, and it just so happens that the one correct viewpoint is your own.  After all, if you were incorrect, you would change your mind.  When a skeptic points out that there are other Christians who disagree with you make sure to remind them that those people have been led astray and probably aren’t real Christians anyway.
  2. Make sure they know how horrible they are.  The “image of God” stuff is in like only a handful of verses in the Bible and is totally overplayed (and far too attractive to these contagious little-faithers).  You need to concentrate on how horrible, depraved and broken they are.  Make sure before you end any conversation with someone who is skeptical or non-believing that they know they are a sinner and will burn forever in a literal fire.
  3. Don’t actually listen or respond to them.  If you respond to them, that just validates that they have something to contribute to the world. Sure, they may make a credible point that should be considered, but that danger is precisely why you should do your best to look interested while ignoring them by thinking about what you are going to say next.
  4. Remember APSAR (Always Pit Science Against Religion).  This probably should have been number one.  Modern science is possibly the worst thing that has happened to humanity.  Not only has it cured many of the ways God used to smite people, but it has tried to help us understand how everything works.  That is bad.  These people are usually highly logical with a mind for data, and acting as if science might have something to contribute to the world or that you might be able to believe science and Jesus could break through and make them consider faith once again.  If they give you data, respond to it with Biblical poetry or see #3.
  5. Whatever you do, never trust the Holy Spirit to save them. Sure, the Bible says that it is the role of the Spirit to call them back to God and unleash the sanctifying grace of God in their hearts, but we all know he generally takes his precious time.  No matter if you met them for the first time a moment ago, do not finish any conversation without reviewing the plan of salvation with them.  Do not take time to build a relationship.  Do not take time to earn their respect because those things make it more likely for them to respond in a positive way.  Cut to the chase and make the move for salvation.

I hope this helps you.  If we are able to do this, we could possibly keep all these weirdos out of the church.  Since society is moving more in this direction it may mean the church is gone in thirty years, but that will give us plenty of time to rearrange the chairs on the Titanic.  After all, you know how important straight rows of chairs are to God. 

Disclaimer: Please note the use of sarcasm in tips 1-5.

Question for Comment: What Tips did I Miss?

>>>Read More: Why Science Causes People to Leave the Faith (and how to fix it)