“You can be certain that in the last days there will be some very hard times. 2 People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful, godless, 3 heartless, and hateful. Their words will be cruel, and they will have no self-control or pity. These people will hate everything that is good. 4 They will be sneaky, reckless, and puffed up with pride. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure. 5 Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won’t be real. Don’t have anything to do with such people” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, CEV).
The church is meant to be authentic, not hypocritical.
Paul was talking to his young protégé Timothy. He was not talking about unchurched people, but churched people. If we miss that point, we miss the whole point of the book of 2 Timothy. The bad stuff is all church crud. This is why, when I was a teenager, I was so sour on the church. My Dad was an elder and served in every capacity within our local congregation. Even though he wisely did not talk about all the crud at the dinner table, occasionally someone would drop by and talk about the pastor to him, or about another member. It was always negative. No church member ever came to our home to encourage my Dad or my family, or to talk about how they might pray for the pastor. They just belly-ached and made crazy accusations. And all the while I knew what was going on in their lives (which was more messed-up than anything they were talking about to my Dad).
The church is meant to be a place where real people can share real hurts, real joys, real pain, real answers to prayer, real thoughts and feelings, so that they might find grace and healing for their lives.
The church is meant to be authentic. While Jesus was ministering on this earth, he was constantly chided for spending time with real people sharing real hurts because the religious folks did not want problem messy people around their religious establishment.
If we keep hiding our emptiness and our pain, then pretense is always the result; this is just another way of saying “hypocrisy.” Yes, when we pretend to be one thing on the outside but on the inside are another thing, then we are wearing a mask and playing the hypocrite.
Let me be real with you: I actually cry every day for the church. I carry the weight of the souls of my own congregation on my shoulders. I admit to you that Christ’s easy yoke doesn’t seem so light on many days for me. I admit that there are times I grow tired and weary of the pretense, the negativity, and the lack of grace that so many believers today exhibit, especially on social media. Today there needs to be repentance, revival, a commitment to biblical renewal, and loads of authenticity. Today is the day to be real.
People are messy, both physically and spiritually. If there aren’t any cows in the barn, there’s no manure to shovel. Dealing with messes means there is life happening. Everything that is always nice and clean has no life happening. Hospitality is messy. Church ministry is messy. When people share real feelings, it often is not pretty. But the alternative is making a pretense and show of religion to appear we are upstanding Christian citizens.
The church is the hope of the world when it is authentic, not hypocritical. Growing up as a kid in my church I thought religious activity and right belief were the important things. But I came to the point in my life at age seventeen recognizing that I did not have a real relationship with Jesus Christ. I only attended church, and was not committed to knowing Jesus. I was only a fan of Jesus, not a follower. I wore a mask, and God had to unmask me. I had to see that the Bible was relevant. I had to repent and believe the gospel: I needed to know that I was lost and that Jesus gives me forgiveness and new life. That is the church’s message: Forgiveness and new life in Jesus. It comes through real genuine authenticity. Hypocrites need not apply.