Real or Fraud

Hypocrisy is one of the nastiest words thrown at Christians. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most accurate as well.  Add to that, the seeming inability to admit to said hypocrisy and you get a double whammy with it. We’re not just hypocrites with strangers, non-Christians, or even in the church.  No, we’re hypocrites even within our own hearts.  It’s disgusting.

Picture a room–a semi-circle of chairs with anxious-looking people, unwilling to meet one anothers’ eyes.  One woman squirms before standing and shuffling to the front of the room.  Her eyes seem to look anywhere but at the eyes now staring at her.  She frowns and wills herself to meet the gaze of the others.  Clearing her throat, she speaks.

“Hello, I’m Chautona.  I’m a hypocrite.  It’s been…” she glances at her watch, “fourteen seconds since I last failed in my attempt to eradicate hypocrisy from my life.”

You think fourteen seconds was harsh?  Let me tell you something.  Chautona expects others to admit to their failings instead of trying to justify them.  She was doing it in her heart.  That’s just as wrong as verbally.  Chautona also expects people to look her in the eye when speaking to her– at least some of the time.  She didn’t want to and tried not to.  Chautona is a hypocrite.  Yes, I am a hypocrite.  I hate it.  I feel like the Apostle Paul.  I don’t do what I should do, I do what I don’t want to do, wretched woman that I am…

But I’m not wretched.  Not really.  I’ve got Jesus.  I’m cleansed.  That double-standard I hold that I don’t even realize yet– it’s already been nailed to the cross and forgiven.  That’s so amazing!  He washed me clean.  CLEAN.  It’s done.

None of this is news to anyone though, is it?  I mean, the funny thing is–ironic really– is that I’ve never pretended that I wasn’t a hypocrite!  How stupid is that?  But… it’s true.  Sad and sorry, but it’s true.

See, I’m a fraud.  Hurts to admit it by the way.

The alternative, I’ve been told, is to be “real.”  I agree.  Let’s be real.  I can go there.  Isn’t that what I’m doing here?  Being real?  Confessing my faults “one to another” as James tells me to?

Wanna know what real isn’t to me?  Real isn’t making others endure my sinfulness.  Real isn’t saying, “I know that my smoking puts your life at risk.  Tuff.  It’s who I am.  I’m being real.”  Real is when I say, “I care enough about my friend that I’ll shower, change my clothes, and walk down the street to visit you so that I don’t put your health at risk.  That’s not fake.  That’s not hypocrisy!  That’s REAL love for you.

If I visit a friend whose husband finds purple tops too provocative to endure, I’m not going to wear a purple top– even if I wear one every other day of the week.  I’m not going to do it because it’s courteous.  It’s loving my brother in Christ!  For heaven’s sake!  We have enough that we’re hypocrites about without letting our Christian liberty trample our brothers and sisters in the process.  I can drink alcohol with a 100% clear conscience.  I “never” do (can probably count on one hand since I moved out of my parents house).  Why don’t I?  Well, lots of reasons, concern that I might learn to like it too much being a major one, but the biggest is that my husband doesn’t like it.  He doesn’t like it in the house.  He doesn’t like it near his spouse.  😉  I love him.  He knows I don’t have a problem with drinking it–heck!  He doesn’t have a problem with anyone drinking it.  He just doesn’t like the stuff and I love him.  I’m not going to drink it if it is something he’d rather wasn’t here!  So, we’ve got our medicinal bottle of Jack Daniels, and I do not pour it in my Coke.  That doesn’t make me a hypocrite.  That doesn’t mean I’m not real.  That means I AM REAL.  I am REALly loving my husband by keeping the alcohol consumption out of here.

Since when did our being “real” mean that we have to make the rest of the world–our Christian brothers and sisters–have to endure things that violate their conscience.  Why is it that one brother can feel comfortable watching a violent movie and because he does, his friend with a more tender conscience can either suck it up and deal with it or go home?  Why must it be THAT movie when the friend is around.  Is a movie really more important than a man Jesus died for? So what if the brother is wrong and it’s ok to watch this movie.  Let’s assume it’s like meat offered to idols.  Paul said DON’T SERVE IT TO THE WEAKER BROTHER.  Paul didn’t say tell the weaker brother to eat up, don’t look, or go away.

We’re all frauds–hypocrites.  We are.  It’s not just in the church.  The world is full of frauds both Christians and non-Christians.  But if our “real” selves trample our brothers and sisters in Christ with our “reality,” what does that say about what we’re doing to people that Jesus was tortured, beaten, and murdered for?  It’s still “real” if you yield to serve a brother in Christ.  You don’t have to lie and pretend you don’t usually eat that meat offered to idols, drink that beer, listen to that musician, watch that movie, use that language, whatever the issue is.  You don’t have to lie!  You can be real and still show love for the person who isn’t comfortable with those things.  That’s real too.  It’s real and RIGHT.

The fraud is the person who says that they serve and follow Christ and hold onto their own rights so tight that they trample people that Jesus said to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;”  (Rom 12:10).

Kill THAT hypocrisy.  I dare you.

Just Sayin’…

I’ve read it a million times in various books.  Someone says something like, “Well, things are just going downhill.  In my day…”  Invariably, the impression is clear.  Only “old” people are bothered by the relaxing of standards once considered important.  Well, I think I’m old.  Call me a hypocrite, but I’ve never been bothered by words like darn and heck.  For one thing, they’d been around for several generations before me and were far removed from the original words.  I get that language is fluid.  I get that things change.  I just don’t agree that all change is good.

It started with a so-called mild form of excrement.  Not as offensive as the “S” word, this word I’ve heard spoken glibly by nearly everyone.  I hate it, but I tried to keep my opinion to myself.  After all, just because I don’t like it doesn’t make it wrong.  Then there came the spin-offs of the vulgar “F” word.  I hate them.  Cannot stand them.  However, I have to say, they are still preferable to the more modern “F-ing” or “WTF.”  I hesitated typing those out.  I feel like I just used nasty language.  You know why?  Because I did.  I’m sorry, but it’s quite obvious what words are meant there.  The mind fills them in for you.  I have actually heard people say both aloud. Text-speak has invaded modern speech in new ways.  People actually vocalize “LOL” or “OMG” as if they are words.  I’m sorry, exclaiming “OMG” is frankly no different than saying “Oh, my God!”  Let’s hope that is a prayer on your lips.

I know that a lot of people say, “So what?  It’s just a matter of taste.  You’re just judging/putting your standards on others/etc.”  Um, actually, I’m quite certain that Scripture is clear on this kind of thing.

I know, I have a love-affair with the book of James.  People who know me well could have guessed I’d start there.  James 3: 5-10

5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

6And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

7For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.

8But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

9With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;

10from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

When I think of these verses, the first thing that comes to mind is how easily our tongue controls us rather than the other way around.  When you take Luke 6:45 and read it with James in mind, it becomes quite sobering.

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

Gulp.  When we’re throwing out words that refer to irreverent usage of God’s name, excrement, and the most vulgar words in our language, what does that say about our hearts?  Can we truthfully stand before the Lord and say, “I knew You’d use that language, so I was good with it?”  If Jesus wouldn’t use our choice of “phraseology,” then what makes those of us who call ourselves “Christ Ones” (Christians) think that it is acceptable for us?

I’ve actually heard Christians defend the use by saying that the Bible doesn’t forbid it.  Seriously?  We have movie and even TV show ratings that both signify and warn about “Profane speech” in their choices.  You can expect to possibly hear a few “mild” profanities in PG, possibly quite a bit with PG-13, and if you get to R, well it could be like the time we went to see the movie Phone Booth, expecting to have to overlook a few obscenities and left after just a few minutes and about 50 F-words.  It was ridiculous.  If the world can see that certain words are “profane” why are we so quick to dismiss it.  Ephesians 5:3-5 has something to say about that.

Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Um… no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk which is out of place…

What about the ESV?  I thought it was interesting to compare the NAB to the ESV on verse 4.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

What the NAB calls obscenity, the ESV calls filthiness.  What the NAB calls silly, the ESV calls foolish talk.  What the NAB calls suggestive talk, the ESV calls crude joking.  OUCH.

Ok, I’m going to be horribly transparent here.  Occasionally someone will say something that sounds “just wrong.”  You know what I mean.  Thank the French for the concept of the “double entendre.”  Usually, I wish I could truthfully say always, I don’t comment.  I mean, really.  Just because one person’s words sounded suggestive when I knew it wasn’t meant to does not mean that I have to send everyone else’s minds around me into the same “obscene/crude” place that mine went.  And, I’ve noticed that the less often I let my mind stay in that place, the less often it goes there.  It’s as if crudeness begets crudeness.  Imagine that.

Look, I know we have what we call “free speech” in America, and I believe it is a wonderful right that the citizens should protect to the best of their ability.  However, as CHRISTIANS, we do not have that right.  As Christians we are specifically called not to be “of the world.”  We are told to keep our thoughts and speech pure.  I’m sorry, but even text-speak abbreviations for things that are impure don’t sanitize them.  Your spouting “WTF” when something goes wrong or astounds you puts the actual words in my mind.  As a Christian, you are defrauding your sister.  You are being offensive.  You are making it next to impossible for me to keep the impurity of such words out of my mind.  If you cannot see the need to restrain yourself for your own benefit, can you not show Christian charity to your sister in Christ?

When you tell a sexually implicit or explicit joke, turn everything into a double meaning, or use words that send others’ minds in those directions, you’re causing brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble.  Would you really do that if Jesus was right there taking part in the conversation?  I know you can’t “help” what jumps into your mind before you’ve had a chance to dissect it, but you can help putting those same inappropriate images and thoughts into the minds of those around you.

Hey, I’m talking to myself on that one.  Even my (truly) shocked, “Aaak” can do it.  I remember watching a movie once.  All the innuendo (or most anyway) went straight over my head.  It usually does.  However, when we went back to see it with friends and my kids, one person with us caught every single one– and made bothered noises to that effect.  Hey, I don’t blame her.  When you “get it” it’s hard not to be offended by it.  However, every single one of those “ugh” type sounds alerted me to the ugliness I’d missed.  On the one hand, since I’d brought  my older girls, I was glad of it.  On the other hand, I wonder how much of the ugliness they’d have ignored if they weren’t being alerted to its presence every few minutes.  My guess is that most of them would have been like me.  Clueless.  And that’s how I’d have preferred it. I do it often without realizing it until it’s too late.  As a mom, there’s a fine line between not drawing attention to crudeness or obscenity and pointing out what we avoid.  However, between friends, there’s just no excuse for sending one anothers’ minds into the gutter.

Or, in the words of one of those Disney cartoon characters.  “If you don’t have something nice to say…”

Just sayin’.

Dear Young Person…

I know you have grown up and heard a lot of stories about the mistakes your parents made.  The things they did probably make you roll your eyes or maybe you’re one of the kids who hears about the drugs, the parties, the drag races through town, and you think, “You turned out ok.   You had fun and now look at you– talk about boring!  Man, why do people think it’s so bad to try some of this stuff when you’re just going to grow up to be the same as every other parent on the planet?

Let me give you a reality check.  Most of our friends and companions that did the stupid things they did are not the law-abiding staid people that reside in your living rooms today.  Many are in jail or have spent time there, some are still trying to relive their ‘glory days’ as the wild hip dudes and dudettes they used to be and looking just as ridiculous now as they did back then.  All of us were scarred deeply by our foolish and often immoral choices.  Sin is sin.  Sometimes it leaves marks on our bodies or on our health, other times no one but us and the Lord can see the hideous scars that criss-cross our souls.

That tattoo that seemed so cool– oh the satisfaction of annoying dad when we walked into the door with a buxom blonde on our arm or rose on the back of our shoulder.  Now it’s faded, embarrassing, and terrifies small children when we walk into church.    We gained and lost weight and now it’s stretched and wrinkled beyond measure.  The piercings we thought we had to have are empty now– we have nothing but the scars from the holes to remind us of how strongly we wanted to make our mark on the world… and our bodies.

Getting high was great until we got caught, got addicted, and ended up criminals to feed the habit.  Most of the people we knew that did those things are still struggling through life or worse, successful and still enslaved to the stuff.  Few of the people we hung out with were there for us when we needed them most.  They were strung-out or dealing with their own problems.

You think your parents are so out of date.  You roll your eyes (inwardly if not openly) at the restrictive attitudes that you see in us, or worse, you’re condescending and treat us like simpletons who can’t possibly understand the “complex new world” that you’ve entered.

Think again.  Do you truly think we haven’t been there?  Do you truly think you’re the first generation to have new temptations, new ideals, and do you truly think that you’re the only ones who thought that they’d change the world with their brilliance?  Think again.  It’s a generational thing.  Let me give you something else to roll your eyes at.  Come on, I’m trying to make it easy to sit there in your smug superiority.  Read the words.  Really think about them.  They’re profound, even if they are sung by out of date country dudes.

Tommy’s selling used cars, Nancy’s fixing hair,
Harvey runs a grocery store and Margaret doesn’t care.
Jerry drives a truck for Sears and Charlotte’s on the make,
And Paul sells life insurance and part time real estate.

Helen is a hostess, Frank works at the mill,
Janet teaches grade school and prob’ly always will.
Bob works for the city and Jack’s in lab research,
And Peggy plays the organ at the Presbyterian Church.

And the class of ’57 had its dreams,
Oh, we all thought we’d change the world with our great words and deeds.
Or maybe we just thought the world would change to fit our needs,
The class of ’57 had its dreams.

Betty runs a trailer park, Jan sells Tupperware,
Randy’s on an insane ward, Mary’s on welfare.
Charlotte took a job with Ford, Joe took Freddie’s wife,
Charlotte took a millionaire, and Freddie took his life.

John is big in cattle, Ray is deep in debt,
Where Mavis finally wound up is anybody’s bet.
Linda married Sonny, Brenda married me,
And the class of all of us is just a part of history.

And the class of ’57 had its dreams,
But living life from day to day is never like it seems.
Things get complicated when you get past eighteen,
But the class of ’57 had its dreams.
Oh, the class of ’57 had its dreams.

It works for any year.  ’27, ’37, ’47, ’57, ’67, ’77, and even *gasp* ’87 (my year)… ’97, ’07… ’17…  Reread those choruses.  They’re deep for all their simplicity.

All these “mature” (I’ll try not to be rude and laugh at that) decisions you think you want to make… smoking, drinking, piercing, tattoos, filling your minds with books, music, and movies that will leave their imprint on your personality– your soul… aren’t so brilliant ten years down the road when you’re stuck with “Heather’s” name on your arm… and you’re married to Caitlin.  It’s not so much fun when your health and life insurance premiums are double what the next guy’s are because you thought you looked cool proving your independence with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.  Those holes the size of a penny in your ear were a real fashion statement– until the job you wanted most didn’t allow jewelry and you had to let them go.  Now they make great toys for your kids and every time you look in the mirror, you wonder… “why did that seem so cool?”

The fact is, all these kinds of things… few people are thrilled with the decisions they made trying to show their independence and maturity.  They work so hard to be “individual”…  and end up making the same mistakes as everyone else.

There’s a brilliant line in the movie People Will Talk… “Oh, the frightening things that people do when they’re afraid to be afraid.”  A similar one could be said for people trying to prove something to the world.

I’m not saying that everyone who has a tattoo, is pierced in places that makes others cringe, or chooses something different than what they think others might want them to are going to regret it.  That’s just not true.  What is true, however, is that once done, it’s usually unable to be undone.  The WHY of things really get to the heart of it.  Why did your dad get that tattoo of a Barbie doll-like woman on his chest?  Was it because it had deep meaning for him?  Seriously?  I know a family who all got tattoos in memory of their mother.  I get that.  It’s not what I’d do, but I totally understand it.  There was purpose and thought in it.  It wasn’t done in REBELLION or to prove anything to anyone.

Can the same thing be said about those cigarettes that you bought last night?  You think you’re so cool.  I know your mom smokes them.  I also know she’s wanted to quit for the last 25 years.  I know few smokers who are GLAD they started the habit.  You had a choice to make a different decision– to learn from mom what she wishes she’d have understood and could do over.  Instead, you use her choice– one she made no older than you– as license to rub her face in her past with your brilliant, “Well, you do it and you think you’re so godly.”

Is that really what you want to say to Jesus on Judgment Day?  “Well, Mom was rebellious and she’s here.”

Don’t you get it?  It’s not about the holes in your ears, the studs in your nose and lips, the gang symbols on your arms, or the legal or illegal addictive stimulants in your purse/pocket.  It’s about the rebellion in your heart.  Those “out of date” adults… they get it.  They know that rebellion.  They know it better than you do– for now.  They’re trying to help you avoid it.  They love you.  Do you hear that?  They love you.  They don’t cry and rail at you for the things you do because they think it’s ugly (not deep down) they weep because they know the root of it and it terrifies them.  Rebellion is an ugly, frightening thing.

Wake up.  You’re not as cool as you think you are.  You’re just another sinner like the old man with dentures and more wrinkles than last week’s laundry.  You’re just a sinner like the little girl in the smocked dress with sparkling eyes and pig tails.  You’re just a sinner like the preacher standing before the congregation on a Sunday morning.  You’re just a sinner… like your parents.  Like me.

Some people will read this and scratch their heads.  After all, I never pierced anything but the tiny holes in my ears, never had a tattoo, didn’t spike any part of my body, never smoke, never did drugs, and never got drunk.  How can I possibly know what I’m talking about.

I’ve seen it, people.  I may not have done THOSE things… but I’ve done plenty of other wrong things when I allowed rebellion to take root in my heart.  Do I believe that tunnel jewelry is a sin?  Not in and of itself, no.  I also don’t think it’s wise.  After a time, your body can’t recover.  It’s permanent.  Do you really want to be 80 with holes the size of nickels in your ears?  Be honest with yourself.

It’s about rebellion and it starts in the heart.  When you go to make a decision, whether it’s about what you study in school, what shirt you buy at the store, that tattoo on your neck, what music you add to your ipod, or the movie ticket you’re about to buy… look deep into your heart.  Why do you want it?  Is it because you’ve thought it out, made the decision, and know that you can support that decision with scripture.  Do you know there’s no rebellion in your spirit?  Could you truthfully defend your decision to Jesus?

One more thing.  Just because you CAN… doesn’t mean you should.  Ok, so you know that song is 100% ok.  You know that you are fine with it.  You’d add it to Jesus’ ipod tomorrow.  Wouldn’t think twice.  There’s no lying to yourself, you are completely honest with yourself and others.  Ok?  I get that.  We’re on the same page.  The song is totally innocuous.  And it breaks your mother’s heart to know you’ve got it on there.  Let me ask you something.  Is that song so important that you can’t let it go to soothe her spirit?  I’m not talking about every single thing in the world that your parents might disagree with you on.  You won’t be able to go through life without them at least QUESTIONING a decision now and then.  It’s not possible.  I get that.  My question is, she knows about this one, it’s killing her, regardless of whether or not she’s being reasonable or even pleasant, can you defer to your mom as someone worthy of respect and honor and give her this one?

Let me let you in on a secret.  If you can’t… don’t be surprised when they day comes and your kid is breaking your heart and you hear, “It’s just a movie and you’re making a federal case out of it.  It’s not sin.  You don’t have the right…”  You’ve heard it all.. probably last Thursday night.

Caveat:  No, I don’t think every kid out there is evil.  No, my kids are not breaking my heart with their choices.  I’m not even writing this for my kids.  I doubt they’ll ever read it.  This is NOT about actions (such as smoking, watching a movie, getting a tattoo… those are examples), it’s about the heart.  However, I see the grief that teen and adult kids are putting their parents through– often under the argument that “you did it”– and it’s killing me.  If it doesn’t apply to you, don’t get all bent out of shape.  I didn’t write it for you.  If it DOES apply to you, then I don’t care if you get bent out of shape.  Go to the Word.  Read it.  Compare it with your heart.