“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of
heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in,
you stop them.” Matthew 23
Jesus was quick to point out the hypocrisy of those who claimed to be really good at the law. He knew that in their hearts they were anything but interested in keeping the law. They were faking it. And the more sincere they were about being good at the law, the bigger fakers they were. Some things never change.
The church has been and continues to be good at faking it. And the way we fake it is by convincing ourselves that we are actually good at the law, or can be with a bit of sincere effort. And there really are no other options when the preachers of the church fail to distinguish law from gospel and instead prod people into thinking that the Christian life is all about what you are doing for God or the neighbor or to improve your spirituality. ‘If you are a Christian, then you must, ought, should…’ and the prescriptions follow; love like Jesus loved; ‘be a good person (however you define good); avoid certain behaviors or activities; promote justice and peace and the list goes on. We like lists of things to do and things to avoid, and the law is more than ready to provide us with one. So, I start checking off the boxes on whatever law list I am working from and begin to convince myself that I am actually pretty good at this law thing. After all, I got the list from the preacher who was using the Bible and shouldn’t he\she know?
What may be hard to take is the knowledge that a lot of preachers are actually faking it and teaching other to be fakers as well. They were sold this bill of goods by someone along the way so now it’s your turn to fall in line with the prescriptions for “true, christian living.” After all, misery loves company so if the preacher has to examine himself\herself in relation to the demands of the Bible why shouldn’t everyone else? So, the law preacher will keep smiling and go on about victory and the joy of the lord and breakthroughs and glory and all the other spiritual superlatives, but it’s all a fake. Because in the end Jesus Christ is not preached to sinners as the end of the law for faith, he is re-fashioned into another kinder, gentler version of Moses. After all is said and done, Jesus becomes just one more lawgiver and in trying to follow this fake Jesus, you are stuck with being a fake as you are prodded on by fake preachers.
When Jesus Christ gets involved in this business of faking religion He wants to ‘get real’ and He has plenty to say. In fact, He reserved His most withering criticism for those preachers and teachers who put on a good religious show but were actually fakers and pretenders. Read the entire 23rd chapter of Matthew and substitute the word ‘preacher’ for Scribes and Pharisees. For when it comes to living out the law (which He summarized in the Great Commandment) God looks at the heart, not the number of bodies in the pews or the pious rhetoric of the preacher, or the high production values of the hyper-ventilating praise band, or how many marches for justice you have attended. God looks at your heart. And what does He see? Maybe we’d best not go there. It could get ugly.
So, here is your Word from God for today. Stop faking your Christianity. You are not that good at it anyway. And even if you have everyone else pretty much fooled, you probably know better. And by keeping up the fakery you are missing out on the freedom of faith that Jesus Christ died and was raised to give you, and has given you in the forgiveness of your sin.
St. Paul admonished those preeminent New Testament fakers, the Galatians, with this reminder;
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”
In Jesus Christ you are lead away from the slavery and fakery of the religion project, from preoccupation with yourself, so that you might ‘get real’ and breath the ‘free air’ of a living faith. Such faith trust’s God’s external word of promise as all-sufficient and dives confidently, freely into the feisty, messy business of living, serving the neighbor in love with a joyful daring .