Can I be real honest with you? I hope so.
I was meeting with someone earlier this week, and we were talking about some of the difficulties that pastors face, and how important God’s grace is in our lives just like everyone else’s. I concluded that one of the biggest pressures I feel is to “practice what I preach,” yet one of the biggest struggles I face is that I am called to preach a perfect word of God each week, while living very imperfectly. So, in effect, by definition, my job makes me a…hypocrite.
That’s pretty humiliating, when you think about it. Any way you slice it, my ministry is regularly characterized by “do as I say, not as I do.” That in itself can easily be a source of debilitating shame, but it demands that I rest in God’s grace, and not my own righteousness (or lack thereof).
Now, let me be sure to say that I’m not giving myself permission to be disobedient to God’s word, or not to seek to live up to His holy standards. I realize the high calling attached to ministry and what it means to represent Christ and His gospel to the world. But I also hope you realize that I fail often, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes openly and for everyone to see. Something tells me you’re really not surprised by that.
I think the natural inclination, especially for those of us sometimes expected to live on a pedestal, is to fake it, to act like we’ve got it all together even when we don’t, to give the impression that we never fail. But that’s where the realhypocrisy comes in. It’s one thing to seek to live for the Lord and sometimes fail, but it’s another thing altogether to try to present a false sense of spirituality that says you are “holier than thou” when everyone knows you’re not.
Tragically, there are a lot of people out there who think that’s what Christians really are about. We are certainly known in some circles for our pseudo-spirituality and religious arrogance, and so we become what Mark Twain once called “a good man in the worst sense of the word.” I read where Winston Churchill saw a political opponent of his, known for smug self-righteousness, and said, “There, but by the grace of God, goes God.”
That’s what the world has no interest in seeing, from a pastor, or from anyone for that matter. I believe the watching world can live with imperfect Christians. What they don’t want any part of are people who have their nose in the air with a spiritual condescension, detached from grace in their own lives and unwilling to extend it to others. “Woe to you, hypocrites,” Jesus said. And so says the world as well.
I’m grateful to be a part of a church where we can get real with one another, knowing that God’s grace is sufficient for all of us. I pray that His grace will abound more and more in your life, as in mine, and that even our failures will be a demonstration to the world of the extent of the grace wrapped up in our gospel.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday.