In essence, the problem is a pretense of spirituality that borders on being fake. It is the covering of what one really feels (anger, bitterness, resentment, envy, etc . . .) by using 'Christian' words or a spiritual lingo that gives off an air of holiness or godliness, but just beneath the surface something else can be sensed bubbling to get out. We pretend to have it all together and lose sight of our need of God's mercy.
All of us know that the word 'hypocrite' comes from the ancient theater and described the actor who used masks to pretend to be someone he wasn't on stage. I sense too many of us in ministry hide behind spiritual masks of our making.
Preachers struggle with transparancy.
I wish we would resolve to take off our masks and let people see who we really are - including our sins and stumblingblocks. I wish that instead of forcing everyone to act as if they don't have problems, we would create an environment where people freely shared their struggles without fear of retribution or recrimination. I wish that we could use the straightforward language of Luther when we see something that bothers us, or manifest the kind of direct rebukes Calvin deployed in dealing with Servitus, or speak our minds like our 18th Century Baptist forefathers did when they opposed the Socinians and Universalists of their day - while at the same time declaring to the world our own sins.
I guess what I'm saying is this: It is refreshing to be around people who say what they mean, mean what they say, and make no apology for saying it -- all the while freely acknowledging - and confessing to others - their own humanness, frailties, and sins. In other words, I long for the day when we preachers speak specifically and directly about the sins of others -- but at the same time freely speaking specifically and clearly of our own gross and multiple sins -- in order to remind everyone that Christ died for sinners -- not saints.
For those of you who have a hard time understanding what I've just said, read the following quote of 16th Century Reformer Martin Luther. His words may make you even more confused -- but they speak to my soul and articulate what I've been feeling.
If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.
Let Your Sins Be Strong:
A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon
Letter no. 99, 1 August 1521, From the Wartburg
Erika Bullmann Flores
from: _Dr. Martin Luther's Saemmtliche Schriften_
Dr, Johannes Georg Walch, Ed.
(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.),
Vol. 15,cols. 2585-2590.