Secular sophisticates relish scoffing at perceived hypocrites in religious circles today. They seem empowered in today’s sociopolitical environment.
Admittedly, we sometimes hand them scandals on tarnished silver platters. Over the last thirty years, there have been too many priests, preachers, and public figures falling off “high horses” into the sludge of society.
Like frenzied piranhas devouring a bleeding Tilapia, the yellow press gleefully consumes any fallen churchman. Pity the Christian politician, actor, athlete, or minister whose sin or fault becomes public. Or, it can be as simple as a Christ-following quarterback kneeling in a posture of prayer on stadium sidelines. That spiritual symbol alone seems to cause a reaction akin to a cross flashed in the face of a warlock.
Jesus once told a story about a proud Pharisee and a humble tax collector. While parading his self-righteousness into the temple, the Pharisee articulated to God the finer points of his religiosity and thanked God that he was not like those “sinners.” His words dripped with condescension.
Conversely, the humble tax collector or publican stood outside the temple and beat his chest confessionally, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Turning the tables on his audience, Jesus lifts up the Pharisee’s piety as bad religion and the sinner’s prayer of the tax collector as good religion. Many toes were stepped on that day.
Pharisees can still be found inside the Church today, but there is a growing tribe of non-religious Pharisees outside the Church praying, “Dear God (or goddess or spirit-force), I thank thee that I am not like all those holy-rolling hypocrites in the church.” Their disdain drips with condescension.
As today’s left-wing intelligentsia hungrily anticipates the demise of the American Church, they lack a 2000 year historical perspective of church history. After every age of cultural crisis—the true Church has risen. Jesus said the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church. While stomping out the Church in one area, the Church of Jesus Christ begins to grow exponentially in other areas – like China, Africa, or Latin America.
Early on, the Church had to deal with the Judaizers, Gnostics and, more recently, with the followers of Marx, Darwin, Nietzsche, Freud, Murray-O’Hair, and Hitchens. The list has been endless. Yet, the Church still stands.
The New Testament predicts the rise of scoffers in the last days (2 Peter 3:3-4 and Jude 18):
3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
18 they told you, “In the end time there will be scoffers walking according to their own ungodly desires.”
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) was a master mocker. His iconoclastic DNA lives on in many post-modern journalists of the 21st century. Here are a few of his scoffing remarks at religious people:
Sunday school: A prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
A nun, at best, is only half a woman, just as a priest is only half a man.
What is the function that a clergyman performs in the world? Answer: he gets his living by assuring idiots that he can save them from an imaginary hell.
The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore.
The Creator is a comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.
The book of Proverbs warns us of a boomerang effect in correcting scoffers for it brings dishonor to ourselves (9:7). Jesus warned of giving holy things to dogs and casting your pearls before pigs—for they will trample them and attack you (Matt. 7:6).
These verses speak of persons persistently rejecting the gospel—and posessing a consuming passion to demoralize and bring down their perceived enemies. They will drain you of your emotional energy and feed off your reactions.
I was involved in a jail and prison ministry early in my ministry. One day we went to a large state prison to share the gospel. At a certain point, a small group of naysayers surrounded me. Digging in my heals, I thought I would spend some time countering their every claim.
Finally an old grey-headed “Lifer” pulled me aside and said, “Son, leave those men alone and go to men who are open to the gospel, those guys just enjoy arguing. They will wear you out and use up all your time here today.” He was right. We found many open hearts to Jesus that day!
My friend, if the cynics and critics of Christianity have “almost” driven you from your ancestral faith; and if the raw hypocrisy of the so-called church crowd have wounded you grievously — I beg you to take one last look into the loving face of Jesus before you completely shut the door. I dare you to read the entire Gospel of John one last time. And, when you’re ready, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to a loving Church fellowship for one more try.
My prayers are with you!