…because of you.
I read through Romans 2 three times this morning. First, I read it with a professorial eye: Paul excoriates the Jews who live a hypocritical life. They had received the law–do this, don’t do that. Do things this way, not that way. Difficult, but unambiguous. These were the folks who not only knew what God wanted, they assented–no, they “boasted” (v. 23). Yet they broke the very law they preached. It’s no wonder the Gentiles reviled the God of such hypocrites.
I read the chapter again, but replaced “Jew” with “Christian” and “law” with “gospel.” I thought about the multitudes who blaspheme God because of the grotesque hypocrisy of supposed Christian leaders. Leaders who one day tout the need for moral uprightness in our elected officials yet the next day shamelessly support the least moral candidate we’ve seen in decades. Oops. This is where my friend @Melindarmstrong says my private internal monologue peeks out. Not to mention my holier-than-thou pats on my own back.
But then I got down to Bible study.
“But if you bear the name ‘Cindy’ and have received Christ as savior and lord, rely upon the gospel, and boast in God, and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the gospel (with your handy little theology degree hanging on your office wall), and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature (smarty-pants adjunct professor at a swanky Christian college), having in the gospel the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who boast in the gospel, through your breaking the gospel, do you dishonor God? For the name of God is blasphemed
…because of you.” (Romans 2:17-21, 24, with my modification)
And here at last, the laser light of scripture did its painful and beautiful surgery.
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
It hurts to be subject to the tender mercies of the divine surgeon. He doesn’t use anaethesia–it’s part of his gift that I feel the sword excising the cancer of hypocrisy. As I finally got beyond my ivory tower reading of Paul’s letter, I came to receive the gift of repentance, and the tears I shed were sincere: “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Where, oh my God, have I caused someone to blaspheme your name? Where has my behavior brought shame to you? Where have I preached one thing and lived another? Where have my actions pushed someone–a someone you lived and died for!–away from your loving arms?
Oh, the list is far too long. I think of Jacob Marley telling Ebenezer Scrooge, “’tis a terrible and ponderous chain.” I am undone. And yet….
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Like a chastened child, I scramble into your arms. I am sorry, Father. I am deeply sorry for the times I have not lived a life I could be proud of, a life that reflected your goodness and your magnificent claim upon me. Thank you for your good and perfect word, the words that cut me to the quick and yet heal and comfort me at the same time. Help me to live a life that is redolent with your goodness, kindness, and grace.
I’m mindful of a beautiful song we often sing at my church.
“Grace amazing, grace unfailing, grace that saves my soul. Grace unending, grace unrelenting, grace that won’t let go.
Love, greater than our past, deeper than our pain, stronger than our sin. Your love, forever it will last. Your blood will always save. Grace will always win.”
I am imperfect and I am a work in progress. With your help, I will banish hypocrisy and will mirror your character in everything I do. But when I fail, help me to remember:
Grace will always win.