Though I have been in the ministry for all of my adult life, I try not to spend the entirety of my life locked up in the “Ivory tower”. I don’t look much like, talk, or dress much like your typical pastor type dude. As a result, it’s fairly easy for me to do covert reconnaissance ops. Besides, it’s kinda fun . . .
My favorite place to do these missions is on the golf course. The amazing thing about golf is that it is such a personal game that folks generally let down their guard and are perhaps their most real selves. Wise businessmen tell me that before you close a big deal; play a round of golf to find out whom you are really dealing with. And they are right! So, I go alone and get paired up with a couple three other guys I don’t know and my mission begins.
I never reveal my true identity before the 14th hole so I can get the strait scoop. There’s time to talk between shots and the conversation usually gets around to work and family. From there it’s easy to ask an innocent question about where they go to church. I always love it when they answer, “I don’t go to church – church is full of hypocrites.” You might be surprised by my response . . .
“You know you’re right. The Church is full of hypocrites.”
Well, it is. Why should we deny it? The church is full of folks who claim to follow this Jesus guy who forgave their sin and told them “Go and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). And while they return to church every Sunday, dressed in their best clothes, they walk right off the church grounds and return to their life of sin. Heck, some don’t even wait until they’ve left!
This is not new. Paul clearly faced the same criticism:
Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan. What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Galatians 2:17-19 The Message
It’s not often that I use bumper sticker theology but this one seems appropriate here: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”. Jesus didn’t ever say, “Believe in me and you’ll be perfect”. The phrase “leave your life of sin” begins with the word “GO”. It’s a journey and most of us are at the very beginning of the trip – a VERY long one.
The problems begin when we focus on being a “law man” instead of “God’s man”.
Does that make us hypocrites? Well it sure looks like it. To the outsider (and some insiders), we Christians should focus more on following the rules and any deviation from them is proof that we are hypocrites. Well, maybe that’s true but paraphrasing Paul, “We’ve tried the keeping the rules and it didn’t work.”
When, and if, I reveal my true identity on the golf course, I tell those critics of the church that they need to see the church as less like a fire station full of heroes ready to rescue those in distress and more like a hospital. It’s a place where folks go to get healed. Some have their symptoms treated and return to the world wounded, sporting bandages and scars. Most get healed but some never do.
Besides, let the one among us who is not a hypocrite cast the first golf ball . . .
Pressing on toward the goal . . .