For the next few months I’m going to pause the Letters to my Children, and instead pen letters to people who have walked away from Jesus and His church. While these letters are written to a generic audience of people who have left the church, most will be written with a particular person in mind… in hopes that they will think seriously about where they stand.
I hope this letter finds you well. I have spent many minutes reviewing our discussion about why you have left the church. I appreciate you being willing to sit down and talk with me. I hope that we can continue to sitting down and discussing some of your thoughts and beliefs.
I wanted to address one specific issue you brought up. You mentioned you have a problem with specific people at your local congregation. I think I remember you saying that their words had hurt, and that many of them were hypocrites.
Let me begin by apologizing for anyone who may have hurt you. I wish attending a worship service could always be a wonderful experience, but the truth is the church is made up of imperfect people. Not that it justifies what was said or done to you, but I have been hurt by people before as well. In fact, a few have said really ugly things to me—things that if I wasn’t careful could have easily gotten my blood boiling! But please think about this, I never let their words affect my relationship with the Creator of the Universe!
What I have found is often the case is that “hurt people hurt people” – meaning people who are hurting on the inside are commonly the ones to lash out. If you are looking for a place where people will exhibit perfect behavior all the time then you are out of luck. Because the reality is we are human and we fail—if we didn’t then we would not need Jesus.
This is where you have to learn to extend some grace and mercy—because the reality is you may need that same grace and mercy when you are having a bad day.
You mentioned hypocrites. I agree. I do not care for hypocrites either. You’ve probably read the meme on Facebook that says, “Not going to church because it is full of hypocrites is like not going to the gym because it’s full of fat people.” Try to remember the church is supposed to be a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints. Romans 5:8 reminds us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” My prayer is that those who are not truly expressing a Christian life will grow and mature and focus their attention on what is truly important.
Jesus did not like hypocrites either. In fact, He called them out on several occasions. Look at how many times He calls the Pharisees hypocrites in Matthew 23. In fact, Jesus calls these people who thought they were holy white washed tombs “which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
I encourage you to read an occasion where Jesus called out these hypocritical Pharisees in Matthew 15. They were complaining that the disciples did not wash their hands before they ate bread (verse 2). So what would have happened if the disciples saw what was happening and began to ridicule the Pharisees for washing their hands? What if they took the position, “The way to be holy is to do like us and not wash your hands.”
In this case, them not doing something would be just as hypocritical, as they would come across as thinking they were better than the Pharisees. It would be the disciples who were the hypocrites then.
But isn’t this exactly what you are doing? You are not doing something (attending worship) and assuming you are better than the Pharisees (or Christians). So who is the hypocrite now? Does you staying at home make you more holy because you have removed yourself from any type of organized religion? Haven’t you in essence placed yourself on a pedestal to judge others—and in doing so become the very hypocrite you say you despise? I hope you will seriously consider this and come back.
Do not ever let someone else interfere with your relationship with God. So they come to church but drink in bars during the week? So what – do not let that keep you away from heaven. So they teach a Bible class but you know they are addicted to pornography? That is very sad, but it doesn’t have to destroy your relationship with Jesus. Who knows, maybe God revealed their hypocrisy to you so that one day you may be able to restore them in meekness and love.
I hope you will think on these things. Until next time, I continue to pray for you,