By Pastor Ron Buxton
I became a follower of Jesus Christ in the 1980’s. It was a turbulent time, with so many scandals among tele-evangelists. If you remember back then, the phoniness that was ridiculed in the media—and rightly so—presented an adverse climate to faith in Jesus Christ. Today, I want to muse about the so-called “elephant in the room” that the organized church tends to avoid.
There is a problem in Christendom that actually predates Christianity. Permit me to label it as a “religiously-transmitted disease”. It is a condition that appears quite commendable on the outside. Most folks will observe contaminated individuals and not suspect anything awry. Of course, the people that live with them are painfully aware of their disease. And, unfortunately, that’s where the greatest damage occurs. Allow me to illustrate.
Friedrich Nietzsche grew up in a minister’s home. Charles Darwin was enrolled as a divinity student in college. Karl Marx had a very hypocritical Jewish father. Also, an illegitimate son with an uncertain last name–later changed to Hitler–had childhood experiences that caused him to lash out against the organized church. They were all victims of “religiously-transmitted disease”. And they reacted violently—yet, unadvisedly–towards hypocrisy!
Twice, in the Gospel narratives, Jesus made a whip and chased around some unsuspecting merchants. Where did He do this? The very Temple of God in Jerusalem. You see, people with the “religiously-transmitted disease” were profiting off the vulnerable, yet faithful, followers of Judaism. And it made Jesus spitting mad!
Actually, Jesus was ticked-off on many occasions recorded in the New Testament. That might come as a surprise to some of you reading this. What? “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”–the one we read about in Sunday school stories? Spitting mad? Yes. Same Jesus. Why? “Religiously-transmitted disease”. He knew what effect that had on individuals and society.
The late Brennan Manning wrote: “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him in their lifestyle.” That is the greatest of all tragedies because it cuts people off from the only hope, peace, and salvation for all of mankind! And it is what made Jesus spitting mad! Still does.
The church was intended to be a “hospital for sinners” and not a “museum for saints”! Self-righteous individuals with a “religiously-transmitted disease” have to be dealt with. Hypocrisy has driven more people away from a true relationship with God than any other culprit! It is incumbent upon those who really know Jesus to provide the remedy to this pernicious plague.
The grace of God that awakens our hearts to faith in Christ, is also the grace that enables us to live lives free from hypocrisy. Please join in providing the “vaccination” against “religiously-transmitted disease”. And if you see any symptoms in me–please let me know. I want to be part of the cure, and not part of the contamination.