"Later they sent some of the Pharisees and
Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said,
'Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men,
because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of
God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or
not? Should we pay or shouldn't we?' But Jesus knew their hypocrisy.
'Why are you trying to trap me?' He asked." (Mark 12:13-15 NIV)
Some of the worst enemies to Christians are "religious" people themselves. Let me illustrate this with what happened to one of my friends.
A nice-looking decent young man was dating a young lady from his church. He was a deacon and considered highly "spiritual". The young Christian lady had high hopes that he would propose to her soon, especially when he invited her to a high-class restaurant. The ambiance was romantic, as soft music was been played through the loudspeakers. The diner was fabulous. As desert was being brought to the table, the young lad took hold of the girl's hand. Her heart started to beat faster.
"He is going to ask me now! I can't believe it!" She thought all excitedly.
"I need to propose you something."
That was an unusual introduction for marriage. What was he up to?
"Why don't we move in together?"
"What about marriage?" She tried to say in a horrified tone while gasping for some air.
"Oh, that's for fanatics. I don't believe in that kind of ritual. Living together gives us the option to break up and date others, if it does not work out."
The young lady couldn't believe her ears! Wasn't he a believer from her own church and wasn't he a deacon? How could this be possible? She ran out of the restaurant in tears, while he calmly ordered some coffee.
"I will call her tomorrow, when she had the time to get used to the idea." He decided.
It is very easy for anyone to pretend to be religious. One can quickly learn a church's jargon and use words like "born again", "divine love" and "oh, how I love the Lord." However the outward appearance does not guarantee what lies in the heart!
"What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'" (Mark 7:20-23 NIV)
Look at the religious leaders in Jesus' time. A lot of them were what Jesus called "hypocrites". They constantly searched ways to trap Jesus. However He always saw through to them. Shouldn't they have been the ones to recognize their Messiah? Hadn't they scrutinized the Scriptures? Why were they so hostile towards Jesus? Why had they ended up in a self satisfying religion instead of greeting the One they were proclaiming from their pulpits? - Weren't they highly "spiritual"? There is a big difference between being "spiritual" and being a "Christian". Being "spiritual" can be solely based on outward appearance, while being a Christian is always based on an inward decision to always follow Jesus no matter what. The "I" governs the one, while Jesus is Lord of the other.
The church is a place where sinners gather together. Not everyone attending church is a Christian, although most of them pretend to be! Those who don't apply Jesus' words in their life are like those who build a house on the sand (see Matthew 7:26-27). They are "make believe" believers who are hollow inside.
Is the church a bunch of hypocrites? For some of the members absolutely. Even Jesus said so, but not for those who made Jesus their guide of their life. It isn't a question of hypocrisy, but of distinction between wheat and weeds. Let me explain this through one of Jesus' parables:
"Jesus told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner's servants came to him and said, "Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?" "An enemy did this," he replied. The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?" "No," he answered, "because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn."'" (Matt 13:24-30 NIV)
A church consists of wheat and weeds. The wheat are those who have decided to have Jesus as Lord. The weeds are those who are not applying Jesus' words in their life and are so filled with themselves that they leave a bitter taste of what Christianity really is about.
Where do these "weed" come from? Jesus is clear on that. They come from the enemy, the devil.
It all makes sense. If I was the devil, that is exactly what I would do. Divide my enemy and they would be easily conquered. Also when a group of people are divided, they are easily dismissed by others as untrustworthy!
Should we start weeding out those weeds in the church? Jesus is imperative on that: No! Why not? "'Because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them." It isn't our task to weed. Instead we should "love one another" (John 13:34-35) and share the "gospel of grace" with others. By constantly reaching out, even towards those in our congregations, some of these weeds will be transformed into wheat through the power of Christ. We should never give up and always let Jesus be our guide. Only when we learn what John the Baptist meant with the following words: "He must increase, but I must decrease." ( John 3:30 NKJV) will we become effective as a Christian.
What would you rather be: a weed or wheat?