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Posts Tagged ‘hypocrites’

Jo 17Recently, the funeral an elderly gentleman who had never married and whose closest relative was a sister living in the USA was held at our church. He was a quiet, unassuming man who had worked with a Christian organisation in various parts of the world. Each Sunday, he would catch two buses to get to our church from his home a few suburbs away. But one Sunday a few weeks ago, he apparently fell over at home while getting ready and it was two or three days before friends or neighbours realised something must be wrong. The police broke in—and he was taken to hospital.

As soon as our church heard about his plight, various people started visiting him. Some helped by getting things he needed from home. Others washed his clothes. Still others prayed for and with him. Our pastors liaised with medical staff and kept his sister informed. And when the difficult decision had to be made to turn off his life support system, his Christian friends gathered around his bed, surrounded him in prayer and farewelled him in the most godly, dignified way possible.

At one stage, a nurse commented how sad it was that no family members could be with him at the end of his life.

‘But we are his family—we’re his church family!’ one of those present exclaimed.

Perhaps most moving of all, however, were the words of the head ICU doctor, after noting the love, care and respect shown to his patient by those who visited.

‘I’ve never seen anything like it!’ he said with feeling.

Now that was both a wonderful but sad comment, don’t you think? It was wonderful that the loving, sincere, Christlike care given to this elderly man seemed to amaze this doctor, but sad too that he had never before experienced people who were not biological family acting in this deeply caring way. Perhaps he may have come from a culture where such tasks are shouldered by family members only. Who knows? Yet what a reminder to us of the importance of caring for those alone and in need, not only for their sakes but also for any who might be watching and wondering!

For me, it was also a sobering reminder of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 about gathering the nations together, putting the ‘sheep’ on the right and the ‘goats’ on the left, then welcoming those on the right to take their kingdom inheritance, on the basis of having helped him when he was hungry or thirsty, in need of clothes or shelter, ill or in prison. He goes on to explain how the ‘righteous’ hypocrites will argue that they never saw him in such situations—and then adds some words that always cut me to the heart:

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (40)

How thankful I am that that elderly gentleman, who surely qualifies as one of those whom Jesus called ‘brothers of mine’, with no biological family close by to help, had his church family around him who treated him in a way that honoured both Jesus and him! May I have the grace to follow their example, show the same love and be true family to others.

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Is there one overriding quality in a person you find essential for any deep and lasting relationship?  There definitely is for me.  And that quality is honesty or, if you like, integrity.  I like to know that you are undivided, that you say what you mean and mean what you say, that there is no duplicity going on.

So you can imagine how, when I first saw the plant lunaria or, as it is more commonly called, honesty, growing in a friend’s garden a few years ago, I desperately wanted it for my own garden.  I was duly given a few seedlings and, to my surprise, they survived, eventually developing into quite tall plants with large, dark green leaves and beautiful purple flowers.  I loved watching my honesty grow and flourish and burst into bloom – truly a challenging parable unfolding before my eyes.  But it was what happened subsequently that I loved even more.  As the plant began to die off, the dry stems and the oval shaped seedpods were left behind.  And I soon discovered how to remove the outer skin of these seedpods so as to leave the translucent, pearly inner membrane attached to the stems, which I then placed in a large vase in our lounge as a special, home-grown dried arrangement.  And it is still there to this day, reminding me of the value of integrity in my life.

It’s so easy, isn’t it, to opt for half-truths in order to get ourselves out of a sticky situation or to embellish the truth to make ourselves look better than others.  Some time back, in a phone conversation with a business associate, I was left wondering whether to trust his word about anything, as he asserted he would do this and that and tried to explain away various broken promises from our past dealings.  That is disquieting to me – particularly when this person claims to be a Christian.  But I know within myself it is very tempting at times to claim more holiness or more wisdom or even more integrity than I actually possess.  As Jesus pointed out once, it’s very easy to judge others without honestly taking a look at oneself:

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5)

Jesus certainly didn’t mince words when it came to hypocrisy or pretence.  On other occasion he said:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything uncleanIn the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  (Matthew 23: 27-28)

So I get the picture that God values honesty and integrity – that it’s really important for what we say to match up with how we live and act.

Is that what you figure too?  Is that how you live?

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