Tag Archives: hypocrisy

5 church family killers

26 Jun

Photo by Shelby Miller on Unsplash

Yesterday our community learned that police apprehended a man who is accused of, 25 years ago, killing a local school teacher.  He has been living and working in our community all these years.  Here’s the freaky thing, he has a long career as a popular DJ, and he recently deejayed our daughter’s 6th grade end-of-year party hosted by her elementary school.  Undercover officers attended the party and were able to obtain a DNA sample giving them long-awaited evidence to confirm his involvement in the murder.  They later arrested him at his home without incident.  My wife and I read the news article with eyes wide.  There was a killer in our midst.

Today, as we continue studying what Peter has to say in his letter to Christians in the first century Roman Empire, he teaches us about 5 killers in the midst of church families, and he says they need to go.  If you want, go back and read the intro post from yesterday. Here’s the scary thing, though: the five church family killers could easily be within any of us.

Read 1 Peter 2:1-3 where Peter names the five: Malice, Deceit, Hypocrisy, Envy, Slander.

If we are to be a loving church family, all five of those family killers have to be discarded like dirty clothes, Peter says.  Let’s make sure we know exactly what they are so we can identify them in ourselves and clean them out.

First up is Malice.  Not a word we use too often.  But this word Peter used is defined as, “a feeling of hostility and strong dislike, with a possible implication of desiring to do harm—‘hateful feeling.’[1]  That is intense, right?  Feeling hostile toward someone?  Maybe even desiring to do them harm?  My first thought is “Woah…wait a minute Peter.  Are you serious?  People in a church family are not like that toward one another.  You’re starting us off way over the top here, Peter.”

But let’s face it.  When it comes to church, our feelings can run really deep.  In a culture that is changing rapidly, we want the church to be our safe place.  When the church starts to change, that can set off deep feelings of anger and stuff comes out of our lives that maybe we didn’t ever imagine we were capable of.  Rage and temper are powerful forces that many of us cannot control.

Peter is saying malice has to go.  Do you have those strong angry feelings toward anyone? Those feelings need to go.  Surrender your feelings to the Lord, repent, confess, ask forgiveness.  Don’t let them eat you up.  Malice has to go.

The next two are similar.  Deceit and Hypocrisy.  Deceit is defined as “to deceive by using trickery and falsehood.”[2]  This is lying.  Hypocrisy is defined as “to give an impression of having certain purposes or motivations, while in reality having quite different ones.”[3]  Normally when we think of a hypocrite, we think of a person who says one thing and does another.

No surprise here that hypocrisy and deceit are church family killers, right?

My wife, Michelle, is reading a book right now called Sacred Slow, and the author says that hypocrisy and deceit can be poison.  She says, “Physically most of us will never poison ourselves.  But mentally, most of us habitually poison ourselves.  “I’m unattractive.”  “I’m all alone.”  “I’m stupid.” “I’m worthless.”  “If only I were…”  “If only I wasn’t…”  “If only I hadn’t…”  These are poisonous thoughts which can ruin ourselves, our activities, and our relationships.”

We need to rid ourselves our deceit and hypocrisy first by telling ourselves the truth!  The author of Sacred Slow says we need to speak truth to ourselves regularly: “God made me, I am not alone, I have Jesus, I have _____ as a friend, God loves me unconditionally and I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

What we allow our minds to focus on becomes our truth, and that flows into our actions.  Dwell on who you are as a child of God.  View one another in your church family as children of God.  Peter says remove deceit and hypocrisy in the church family.

Fourth he brings up Envy.  This one is defined as a “state of ill will toward someone because of some real or presumed advantage experienced by such a person”[4]  That definition might sound complicated.  Basically, envy is jealousy.  Here’s an example: have you ever had bitter feelings because a person in your church family clearly makes more money than you and is able to have a bigger house, better vacations, and nicer cars?

Jealousy can happen when one person has a certain kind of family, and another person doesn’t.

Jealousy can happen when one person seems to have a lot of friends, or is invited to certain social functions, and another person is not.

We can be jealous of another person’s personality, sense of humor, attractiveness.

Peter says get rid of envy.

Finally, Peter mentions Slander which is “to speak against, often involving speaking evil of”[5]  Slander and malice go together.  Malice is the feeling of evil against another.  Slander is speaking in an evil way against or about another.  You might be a person prone to malice, where you feel strong feelings against another, but you are not a slanderer.  You wouldn’t go so far as to actually open your mouth and speak against them.  Slander involves another level of sin.  It is not only having strong feelings, but speaking them.  Gossip is very much related to this.

Peter says get rid of slander.

So there they are.  The five church family killers. Malice, Deceit, Hypocrisy, Envy, Slander.  That is a bad list!  These are really awful behaviors.  Peter wants the readers of his letter to be super clear: these things should have no part of a church family.  It would be easy to think, “Well, geez, Peter, those are really bad behaviors…why are you talking about them?  Wouldn’t it be super rare that Christians treat each other like that?”

Maybe.  Maybe not.

I think it is important that Peter clearly lists out what is not acceptable in a loving church family.  But more than likely, Peter is addressing issues that he actually heard about in churches.  So let’s pay attention to our church family.  Let’s call out these behaviors and work to stop them.  They should have no part of our fellowship, and no part of our individual lives.  Take off those dirty clothes!

But Peter doesn’t stop there.  Peter doesn’t just want the people to stop things.  He also wants them to start things.  Remove the poor behaviors, and make sure you add what?  Check back in tomorrow, and we’ll find out!

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains 1996 : 763. Print.
[2] Ibid. 758.
[3] Ibid: 765.
[4] Ibid: 759.
[5] Ibid: 432.

Woe to you, Christians – Part 2 – How to stop the two main things that will cause your death

11 Nov

Imagine you have been invited to your pastor’s house for dinner and some leaders of the church are there.  It is a nice meal with pleasant dinner conversation.

Do you think you would take this time to point out all the things you didn’t like about the people around the table?

Some of you might!  Some would be mortified of doing that.

Jesus, in Luke 11:37-56 was invited to dinner with a Pharisee, and an expert in the Law was there.  Before dinner Jesus chose to forgo the traditional washing, and the Pharisee noticed and was surprised.  Jesus saw this as a cultural open door, and stormed through it.   Over the course of the next few minutes he proceeds to insult the Pharisees and Law Experts, using a prophetic Woe Oracle against them.  I introduced the concept of a Woe Oracle last week.  Woe Oracles used funeral language to proclaim “if you keep doing what you’re doing, you will die!”

I also said last week that perhaps the American Church would do well to listen in to this sharp conversation.  Stats have been telling us that we are declining.  Maybe there is something that Jesus was saying to the religious leaders of his day that could help us avoid death in our day.

So what were the Pharisees and Law Experts doing that was so wrong?  Two things.  They were being hypocritical and legalistic.  Read through the Woes again and you’ll see how they were not practicing what they were preaching (hypocrisy), and they were burdening people with extra laws (legalism).

Is it possible that the decline of the American Church is attributable, at least partially, to our own hypocrisy and legalism?

I know this is a difficult passage. These are hard and harsh words from Jesus. He is speaking to those who are living a lifestyle of hypocrisy.  I know that we are not the Pharisees, but don’t we all have areas of hypocrisy?  I know not too many of us are living lifestyles of complete and total legalism, but I don’t want to let us off the hook here either.  Instead I think we all should wrestle with a passage like this.  We are disciples of Jesus.  And Jesus certainly called out his disciples, who had areas of struggle, many times, just as he is calling out the teachers of the law here.  I think it is always good for us, as people who are disciples of Jesus, who desire to make our hearts more and more like the heart of Jesus, to take a hard and honest look at ourselves and see what areas we have improved in and what areas we still need to work on. We should always have teachable hearts, ready to make changes and to do the hard work to change attitudes that work themselves out into our actions.

To use the language of the parable Jesus told to the Pharisee, in what areas are we clean cups on the outside and filthy on the inside?  Are we living secret lives?  Are we hypocritical in any way? We need to get that out in the open, confess it, and change.

This does not mean that you need to be proclaiming all your junk to the public all the time – that is not what I am saying. I am saying that our hearts should be beating like Jesus and that will naturally overflow into our actions.

Additionally, we need to address any potential legalism in our lives.  If the Gospel is about grace through faith, not by works, we can hinder people from the Gospel by emphasizing rules.

Do we believe that following these rules define us as a Christian? If so, is it possible that we have led people astray by communicating to them the perception that they, too, if they want to be a Christian must follow those rules?

Let me give you an illustration. In the early church, in Acts chapter 15, the leaders of the church called a conference. At this point the church was maybe 10 years old or so, and it had grown a lot from the original 120 who started out. Guys like Paul and Barnabas had gone on mission trips and non-Jews from outside Israel had become Christians. Some of the Jewish Christians, including some Pharisees who became Christians, heard about these non-Jews becoming disciples of Jesus, and while they were happy, they felt that the non-Jews needed to start following the Old Testament Jewish Laws now. Especially the law of circumcision. Imagine that. These Jewish Christians felt that adult male non-Jews needed to be circumcised! Ouch!

Paul was totally against this. He argued that the message of Jesus was that the Old Testament Law was fulfilled in Jesus, and that Christians, disciples of Jesus, didn’t have to follow those Laws. Those Laws were essentially the treaty or the covenant between God and Israel, not between God and the church. Paul was right, and thankfully the leaders saw things Paul’s way and they did not require the non-Jewish disciples to get surgery. Whew.

Just like them, let us not put rules and regulations in place of faith in Christ and a life of discipleship!  What defines us as a Christian is that we have hearts that beat for the Lord. That we are his disciples, and our lives are totally arranged about being a disciple who makes disciples.

So in conclusion, the message of Jesus’ Woe Oracle to the Pharisees and teacher of the law is that we should remove hypocrisy and legalism from our lives. We should not be one person on Sunday at church and someone very different in our private lives.

Have you heard the story of the police officer who recently committed suicide because he had a double life? Two sets of families?  We don’t ever want to hear Jesus say Woe to you Church, and that means we should live a life fully for him. Ask him to reveal any hypocrisy in your life. And then remove it.

If there are rules you are imposing on others, maybe even unwittingly, would ask God to reveal them to you, so you can present a pure Gospel and not trip people up on legalism?