Revelations – Holier Than Thou
Repost from Facebook Notes September 10, 2015
I am crying out for sleep right now. I have spent the day writing, mostly perky drivel, but it helps to pay the bills and is the work God put before me this week. My weak self says I could just go to bed and sleep now, God would forgive me for waiting until my mind is clearer and not so weary. Yet, and yet, it is by His grace I was able to finish those other tasks, and ahead of schedule at that. More, this message has simmered, pushed to the back burner for several days, and in the course of this very busy day each brief respite contained within it a neon sign pointing to the demand to put words to keys and speak. Normally that would not bother me so much, but it is a touchy thing, this message. I am prone to bluntness in my present state and too weary to mince words. The best I can do is pray God speaks and that He clears the path for those words to be received.
This thought began what seems an age ago in a conversation where someone I love dearly gently cautioned me about sounding judgmental. That I should be careful not to come off sounding holier than thou. It got me thinking about a different thread based on an article I read a while back that discussed the incompleteness of our modern witness because we are too wrapped up in not coming off as holier than thou. Looking back over many long years, this phrase has held the tongue of many believers for fear they would be cast as “judgmental,” “intolerant,” or perhaps my personal favorite “Pharisaical.” The world has deemed it inappropriate and hypocritical for Christians to speak in any way that may be perceived as censorious.
There are several problems with that whole mindset setting my teeth on edge, and my senses tingling the last week. First hypocrisy. Avoiding hypocrisy doesn’t actually mean a choice between being perfect or never speaking out against wrong. If that were the definition Christ used, there has never been a person aside from Himself in history that would have been allowed to speak to the sins or the needs of humanity. As Christians in America today so jubilantly declare (and we’ll get to that next) we’re all sinners. No one alive, or dead for that matter, except the Son of God, is without some sin somewhere in their lives. Yet, Scripture is filled to bursting with men and women who spoke words of repentance, rebuke and correction to the people around them, and by God’s amazing grace through Scripture to us today. Christ Himself called us to speak truth to our fellow man and be salt and light in the world, which requires us to speak of God’s perfection even from our place of imperfection. Hypocrisy only becomes an issue when our words are spoken for the purposes of setting ourselves out as more worthy of salvation because of our deeds or stark denial of purposeful sin in our own lives while condemning others for committing those same sins. A pastor preaching against adultery from the pulpit Sunday morning while hooking up on Ashley Madison Saturday night would be a clear picture of that kind of hypocrisy. Speaking against abortion or adultery or homosexual marriage when we still struggle against whatever our own personal sin, isn’t.
Second, the “we’re all sinners” schtick. Here’s the deal, no actually we’re not. Or at least we’re not supposed to be. Scripture tells us that we were all born into a broken world and therefore infected with a sinful nature at birth. Over the course of our lives, when we walk in the ways of our flesh and the world, we sin against God. But, Scripture tells us that when we accept Christ as our savior, and He sends us the Holy Spirit, we become a new creation. Now, don’t get me wrong. For most of us, that transformation doesn’t come with the snap of the fingers or even the Sinner’s Prayer. It takes work, it takes pain, it takes shedding a lot of bad habits and attitudes that separated us from God. But, and here’s the really important difference, it means we have intentionally chosen to turn away from sin and turn toward God. It means that every single day, we are supposed to be intentionally dying to that fleshy mess of self and taking up our cross to follow Christ. He does the heavy lifting. He does the transforming. He does the disciplining and training. But, we still have to keep our hope set on Him. So to weakly dismiss the state of grace that comes with following Christ with “we’re all sinners” might sound all nice and humble and meek, in reality it dismisses the transformative and redemptive power Christ promises His followers and makes Him out a liar in the eyes of the world. What Good News is there to the lost and dying if our sharing of the Gospel leaves them thinking we follow a Savior that doesn’t actually save us from slavery to sin as He promised?
Which brings me to the last thing. For many of you reading this, I am holier than thou, so are a whole lot of other Christians. That’s kind of the whole point of giving our lives to Christ: to be made holy. Now don’t misread that, I’m not perfect, and while I know some folks that are holier than me and a whole lot closer to that perfection, none of us will be completely perfected here in this place. But the world is filled with Christ followers that are farther along the path of transformation that you are. For some of you I’m one of those. I’ve spent quite a number of years letting God discipline me and rebuke me through His Word and Spirit. More than that, I was so very lost in sin that when it finally dawned on me what it meant to not just be saved from damnation but to actually be redeemed, I started running full tilt toward God to make up for lost time. For some of the rest of you, I am most assuredly NOT holier than thou, and I praise God for that. Because it is by your example that God shines a light ahead of me to keep me on the path toward Him when I am not quite sure what to do or where to go.
So, here’s the deal for those of you reading this who are Christians, young or old, newly saved or long time follower, we’re supposed to be holier than those around us. God called us out of the profane world and into the sacred with the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ. If you aren’t holier than the sinner sitting next to you what hope does he or she have of escaping the bondage of sin? If being a Christian doesn’t mean being holier than the culture around us, especially as the descent of that culture into the muck is increasing at a rapid pace, what exactly is it supposed mean? More importantly what good are we to the world or to God if we are unwilling to be made holier than the world because it might make people say mean things about us to try to shut us up or we might hurt someone’s feelings? For those of you who aren’t Christians reading this, and are probably rolling your eyes at this self-righteous rant. I can only say one thing and ask a question. It isn’t my righteousness that makes me holier. It’s the righteousness of Christ that He gave up His life to give me. Do you think the world would really be a better place if some of us weren’t willing to be made holy? I’ll look at what that might look like tomorrow.
Next time you catch yourself condemning your brother or sister for their holier than thou attitude, or weakly proclaiming that we are all sinners, stop a minute and ask yourself why. Are they really proclaiming their own self-righteousness, or are they proclaiming the power of God to a people dying of hunger and thirst for His righteousness? Are you really still the miserable wretch God came to and saved when you began as a follower of Christ? Or has He made you new, perfecting you slowly each day and your weak proclamation of your sinfulness is really hiding the light of His glorious and amazing redemptive power? God doesn’t want us to be haughty. He doesn’t want us to be rude. He doesn’t want us to condemn others as less worthy of His grace than we are. But He assuredly does want us to be holy, and to share the joy it brings as He works in us to bring us closer to the glorious day when we stand before Him and He perfects that holiness.
Pray always and glorify the Lord.