Wednesday, July 17, 2013


~ I watched a very cute movie, Chocolat, and I thought I would share its message today. It is a short video clip but worth it.~

At the end of the movie, a young priest stands up to give his Easter Sunday homily. Throughout the movie many changes have happened and he addresses what he has learned since the beginning of Lent.

In the movie Chocolat a small village has lived for hundreds of years in peace. Villagers went about their daily activities in quietness with much of their lives revolving around the local Catholic Parish. The leader of the  village is utterly appalled that a newcomer, a woman, would open a Chocolate Shop at the very beginning of Lent.

This movie might strike a chord with anyone who has experienced "church-life." Unfortunately, many people embrace a form of Christianity that is merely a list of do's and don'ts. They pride themselves on how much they have avoided sin in their lives. 

There is a story told by Jesus that sheds some light on this very issue:
The Story of the Tax Man
and the Pharisee
LUKE 18:9-14 (The Message - a translation by Eugene Peterson)

"He told his next story to some who were
complacently pleased with themselves over their
moral performance and 
looked down their noses at the common people:
'Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man.
The Pharisee posed and prayed like this:

Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people

-- robbers, crooks, adulterers, or heaven forbid, like
this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.
Meanwhile, the tax man, slumped in the shadows,
his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said
God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'
Jesus commented
'This tax man, NOT the other,
went home right with God.
If you walk around with your nose in the air,
you're going to end up flat on your face,
but if you're content to simply be yourself,
you will become MORE than yourself.'"

Things haven't changed much in the last 2,000 years. This pious attitude, in my experience, has two fruits. First, people who mess up are known by their misstep or assumed misstep. 
"Oh, yes, she was Divorced."
"I think he might be gay."
"He had an affair."
"She drinks too much."
"Their kid is on drugs."
"I heard they are having 'trouble at home'."

These people become known by the labels we ascribe to them. Individuals are not viewed as a children of God, nor as an instrument through which God can work. Instead they are judged on their PAST, not their POTENTIAL.

The second fruit of this attitude is far more damning. Admission or the confession of a struggle, weakness or sin becomes fodder for church gossip or what some people justify as "sanctified gossip." Sanctified or not, it is gossip, it is sin, and DESTROYs and pollutes the Church of God.  Not wanting to become the latest topic of gossip, we need to HIDE our missteps, thus becoming a part of the sterile veneer that fills our churches. The church has become a hotel for hypocrites rather than a hospital for the hurting. Confession is rare. Asking for help is avoided. Yet sin is still occurring:
  • How many Christians are addicted to pornography?
  • How many inappropriate relationships do Christians have on Facebook?
  • How many women are a punching bag for an abusive husband?
  • How many of our young people are involved in sexual immorality?
  • How many Christians are racists?
  • How many are abusing prescription drugs? 
Yet on Sunday morning, we camoflage our own struggles, pain and sin with that nice "Christian Veneer." The shallowness of this kind of Christianity is causing our kids to leave the church in droves.

They see the hypocrisy, and quite frankly, want no part of it.

I think here again we should look to Jesus. As Paul puts it in Philippians 2:1-8, we will again use The Message:

"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ,
if his love has made any difference in your life,
if being in a community of the Spirit 
means anything to you,
if you have heart, 
if you care 
-- then do me a favor:
Agree with each other,
love each other,
be deep spirited friends.
Don't push your way to the front;
don't sweet-talk your way to the top.
Put yourself aside,
help OTHERS get ahead.
Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget about yourselves long enough
to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought
of himself.
He had equal status with God but didn't think so much
of himself that he had to cling to those advantages
no matter what. NOT AT ALL.
When the time came, he set aside the privileges 
of deity and took on the status of a slave,
became human!
Having become human, he stayed human.
It was an incredibly humbling process.
He didn't claim special privileges.
Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died
a selfless, obedient death
-- and the worst kind of death at that - a crucifixion.

Isn't it ironic that the self-righteous went about with their chests stuck out and their noses in the air, yet the one who had every right to do that, Jesus, became a servant.

Please, God. Forgive our stupidity, bigotry and self-reliance. Help us to see ourselves as you see us. More importantly, please help us to see others as you see them. Give us the courage to confess our struggles and sins to one another. God, please stop the rampant gossip, judgment and maligning that has polluted your church. God we ask that your Spirit will create in us new hearts that see the brokenness in this world and cause us to weep and pray for this fallen world. We ask, Father, to be your instruments to help heal the brokenhearted. In the name of your Son Jesus - Amen