Between profession and reality. What you see and what you get. In society, in the Church…
Take for example the story of Tonya Head, ‘the ultimate 911 survivor.’ She was hailed as ‘heroine,’ badly scarred by the collapsing debris, losing her beloved husband in the same disaster, afterwards becoming a super-supportive counsellor of fellow-victims. She was revered by many survivors as their ‘best friend.’ The only thing was that she was no where near 911, in fact she was living an affluent single’s life in Spain at the time! Her cover was blown in 2006, and her story told in the book ‘The Woman Who Wasn’t There.’ She had fooled the whole world for years!
The Church, sadly, has impostors too – those who wear masks, those who are not what they appear or claim to be.
A few days ago I read of a local pastor who continues to be the sole controller of all tithes received in his church (R. 80,000 per month), allegedly demands a salary of R. 42,000 per month, but unashamedly reflects it in church accounts as R. 12,500 per month ‘for tax purposes!’
I had to laugh! While waiting to turn left into a main road I noticed a bakkie (small truck) approaching from my right with huge painted letters on the windscreen, YOU SUCK! I turned left and pulled up behind the bakkie at a traffic light, only to notice the less extravagant writing on the back of the tailgate, ‘Fishing for Jesus!’ Well there you have it…
There are much subtler examples of this disconnect. A church advertisement of Sunday Services at the Boardwalk NuMetro Cinema: ‘Experience God’s Love on the Big Screen!’
The conclusion of a well-known S.A. theological seminary that only a small percentage of professing Christians in our country are reading the Bible daily (a N. American equivalent is less than 20%). The faithful are reading books about the Bible and watching DVD’s about the Bible but hardly ever reading the Bible. Prospective pastors are arriving at seminaries biblically illiterate. (Compare this with the hours of daily devotion to the ‘idol in the corner,’ to use the label for the television set coined by the late David Wilkerson)
In the OT, Yahweh accused the shepherds of Israel (Ezek. 34) of feeding themselves rather than their flocks, failing to care for the weak, having ‘ruled them with force and cruelty (note the heart-breaking control and manipulation in so many churches today). So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd. They are easy prey for any wild animal.
The Pharisees, the clergy of Jesus’ time, with only a few exceptions, were exposed by our Lord as being experts at pretence, ‘hypocrites’ (lit. ‘mask-wearers’) [Mt. 6, 12, 15, 23 (where He pronounces 7 woes upon them for their hypocrisy)], caring more about their status than the ‘sinner’ in their midst. Compare (Lk. 7:36-50) Jesus’ tender dealings with the sinful woman who came to worship Him in the house of Simon the Pharisee with His incisive exposure of Simon’s coldness of heart to Himself and the broken woman.
So what’s the cure?? (For, after all, we have all been Pharisees and hypocrites at some time or another…)
Firstly to radically disconnect from the subtle ‘yeast of the Pharisees’ (Mt. 16). The yeast of law-keeping for our salvation (and sanctification!), the yeast of scoring points with God and others, the yeast of ‘playing church,’ the yeast of religiosity and self-righteousness rather than the humble incarnation of the tender mercies of God.
Secondly to vitally connect! To connect with God through Jesus and the Spirit – through a gracious (undeserved/ unmerited), personal and intimate relationship with the Altogether Lovely One. When the Pharisees tried to catch Jesus out in Mt. 22:34-40 regarding ‘the greatest commandment,’ Jesus didn’t point them to a rule (as they expected) but a relationship! ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbour as yourself.’ It’s the relationship of two lovers, spending time with one another (worship and intimacy), talking to one another (prayer), listening to one another (understanding the Bible, His love story), boasting about one another (testimony).