Filled with hypocrites

Published 10:25 am Monday, July 9, 2018

by Nathan Decker

“I never understood why going to church made you a hypocrite, because nobody goes to church because they are perfect.

Every time you go to church you’re confessing that you don’t have it all together.

You need some help.”

— Rich Mullins

At the chapel I lead at our day care, the kids love this little diddy about being God’s sheep. One line in it goes “I don’t wanna be a hypocrite because they’re not hip with it.” I am pretty sure that I’m a long way from hip, but I also strive not to be a hypocrite: someone who practices self-righteousness and white-washing on the outside to hide the rotting selfishness and insecurity on the inside. Sometimes folks will even comment that they don’t come to church because, “That place is filled with hypocrites.”  My response is, “Yes, the church is filled with broken human beings who need help.”

Church is the place where it is OK not to be OK. In a society that glorifies the fake and hides the real, church is a safe haven for those who overcome insecurity and have the courage to be vulnerable with God and one another. The people I see in church are folks who are brave enough to admit they are broken. Perfect people don’t come to church. Perfect people have no need for church.

If you are happily satisfied with your health and your sanity — don’t come to church. If all of your relationships with your boss, your employees, your spouse, your parents and your kids are exactly how you want them — don’t come to church. If you are fulfilled by your job, your income and feel you have plenty of time for recreation — you probably don’t come to church. And if you believe that your spirituality is at the highest point, that there is no room for growth in who you are as a human being through the salvation that Christ offers — don’t come to church.

BUT … if you are not perfect, I know a place where other imperfect people gather. We come together acknowledging that we don’t have it all figured out. We huddle in the darkness of life’s grief and pain and wrap our arms around one another in fierce solidarity against the cold. We give of our resources and do what we can to make earth a little more like heaven. We search. We ask questions that may not have answers. We pray and find peace in a Divine Presence that cannot be understood or described. We are the church — a ragtag group of imperfect hypocrites who are brave enough to call out to God, asking for help. We seek change and transformation which we find in Christ.

If you find yourself nodding and saying, “Yeah, those are my kind of people,” then I invite you to try church this week. When you do, I’m sure you will encounter a few people putting on perfection as if it were a pearl necklace or a neck tie.  But I’m also sure you’ll meet the rest of us, the majority, the broken people who have come just like you — looking for help. Church is filled with hypocrites — people who haven’t figured out how to be perfect. Come join us, after all — it’s what Jesus would do.

“Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually fit.”

-Mark 2:17, Jesus responding to those who felt he should avoid sinners.

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.