Monday, September 19, 2016
Spirituality Column No. 514
September 20, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary
By Bob Walters
“… Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14
Paul had just an awful time with the Corinthian church.
Every manner of false apostle, Judaizer, heretic, pagan, deceiver, quarreler and fool had a seat in God’s house in Corinth. Paul’s steadfast message of Jesus Christ and righteous preaching of the Gospel attacked all false doctrine, fanned the flame of truth and shared “surpassingly great revelations” (12:7) even as he bore a personal thorn of unknown torment and courageously endured shipwrecks, beatings and prison.
Paul plainly had his story straight and his ministry blessed straight from the top. His mission was to build people up, not tear them down (13:10), but he pulled no punches, tolerated no heresy and gave in to no falsehood.
The light Paul preached was the true light.
I don’t know of a modern day church that has a “Paul,” exactly; he was really one of a kind; a ministry archetype of faith, knowledge, anointing and action. But there are plenty of great preachers today preaching Christ crucified to faithful congregations that are full of sinners, full of problems, full of hope, full of truth and full of repentant but stumbling believers who nonetheless pursue God’s call, love their Lord, their neighbor and help out where they can. A smile in church is neither a mask nor hypocrisy.
Believers can be sinners in the same awkward, tangent comparison that judgment can include mercy. Knowing you have sinned and going to church doesn’t make you a hypocrite any more than knowing your car is dirty and taking it to the car wash.
Are “churches full of hypocrites?” Sure, but the question really asks about man, not the church. Considering fallen humanity’s proclivities and fears, hypocrisy is not our worst trait. Ignoring God is our worst trait. Church is a step in the right direction and hypocrisy is OK if it brings one into proximity with Christ.
From there, let the Holy Spirit – Who is not a hypocrite – do its job.
I wince when I hear preaching about the “masks” we wear in church to hide our sin, how we’re hypocrites, etc. Baloney. Satan masquerading as a believer is different from a believer bucking up with a smile in an effort to escape a bad week. Church and the love of Christ are supposed to provide welcome respite from life’s sin, shame and struggles. We share our burdens. Jesus is our peace and our rest, after all, and God rested after a week’s work.
So relax – wear a smile and leave the mask at home. The best relationships are built from honest joy, not from behind a mask.
Going to church should make you feel better, not worse.
Walters (email@example.com) realizes church always has room for more hypocrites; Paul likely would have preferred them to the crowd he had in Corinth.