“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’.” Matthew 15:7-9 NKJV
Reading an article earlier this morning, the author was pointing out the mistakes many Christians make when reaching out (that is, if they bother reaching out at all), not least among these mistakes being an insistence that others must embrace our own beliefs in order to get right with The Lord. And often our own beliefs (honest though they may be) have not been fully vetted or conditioned upon what is actually written in the whole of the Scripture, relying more heavily on whatever can fit on a bumper sticker – and even then not being quite biblical.
Of course Christians can stay up nights trying to list all the things others find wrong with us of the Church, and we can lose a lot of sleep worrying about things we cannot change. Some people just don’t want to hear it. Often, however, even Christians don’t want to hear the Truth, preferring instead something we have created for ourselves over time, maybe having heard it on TV by some well-to-do preacher that resonated with us. It is so easy to get caught up in half-truths but when we do, a closer look through the lens of Scripture might reveal that what we are embracing is not quite what is written. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” springs to mind.
The prophet nailed the people of Judah. Actually The Lord did, and nailed them through His prophet. In quoting the prophet, however, Jesus was not speaking strictly of a time or a people of the past. Jesus is speaking a timeless truth: even the people of The Lord can get caught up in paying cheap lip service to The Lord while betraying biblical principles in our hearts. Think of displaying deep love for The Lord on social media while ignoring the Church, the “ekklesia”, the assembly of The Lord’s people. Or passing on rumors we do not have first-hand knowledge of, but doing so because we desire to do damage to so-and-so or just want to fit in with a particular clique (especially during election season!). The harsh truth is we cannot claim allegiance to Christ when we willfully (and often gleefully) get so caught up in the intentional destruction of so-and-so, or ignoring the real needs of the community we are called to serve.
Words are easy, and talk is cheap. Being a disciple, however, is hard; but nothing worth pursuing is ever easy. As a priest of my childhood once said, “If you find following Christ to be easy, you’re doing it wrong.” Social media has its place, but it cannot become a replacement for genuine relationships through which people can actually see the love of The Lord we profess not only with our lips but with our hands and feet as well. In the end, that is what discipleship is about: sharing what we know to be true in life-transforming ways not only for ourselves but for others as well. There can be nothing so deeply “personal” about a relationship we claim with Christ that does not express itself outwardly in meaningful ways beyond our mere words.
The Lord desires our hearts, our full devotion, and full attention – and for reasons we cannot begin to fathom until we actually start taking Him at His Word and listen to Him carefully – even when He seems harsh. Think about it. If He didn’t care about us, He would have stopped speaking to us long ago.