You’ve met them. They are the ones who always seem to have a criticism of how things are going AND they don’t jump in to assist, they just want to complain. Truth be told, I’ve caught myself doing the same thing.
Isn’t it amazing how much insight into a problem you can have and feel completely comfortable standing on the sidelines offer all this free advice? I guess by all the nodding and smiling, you get where I’m going!
This really shows up all too often in parish life. So many seem to be OK with offering observations about problems but then seem to be reluctant to actually help. “I’d rather write a check than volunteer to give my time” seems to be the common refrain, but then they don’t write the check AND don’t volunteer. And those folks always seem to be the first to either complain or to criticise. It’s frustrating.
What do you think is the root cause of such a common ailment among us? Jesus had an insight into this very challenge and He named the root cause, but I warn you, you aren’t going to like this!
Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning in Matthew 23:13-22: The Lord said to the Jews who had come to him, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows’ houses and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive the greater condemnation. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. (Matthew 23:13-14)
So, the root illness behind this common ailment among us and in our own hearts is Hypocrisy. See, I told you you wouldn’t like it. No one want to think themselves a hypocrite and yet…
But before we get too caught up in self-condemnation which only leads to some emotional response of either delusion or self justification, let’s stop and examine hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is the all too easy fruit of fear and a lack of love. Fear, in the sense that we are smart enough to see what should be done, but afraid of getting involved for fear of failing or being rejected or running the risk of being hurt by others. So our fear enslaves us to an isolation but doesn’t take from us the insight as to what should be done. This sets up a “no win” situation for our lives. We know what needs to be done but we are too afraid to risk getting involved and being part of the solution for fear of rejection or disappointment.
And hypocrisy flows from a lack of love in the sense that “perfect love casts out fear.” Read this verse: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18) Love sets me free to risk AND liberates all those around me from my own expectations of response and behavior. Love lets me act without regard of others reactions because Love makes it possible to risk my own life and rest in God’s unconditional love for me.
So, today, as we learn to live in a healthy parish community; in healthy relationships in all aspects of our lives, work, home, church; let’s fight the illness of hypocrisy with the medicine of “perfect love” so that hypocrisy wont lock us away in that “hell” of seeing what should be done but always standing on the sidelines offering advice without risking getting involved. We never want it said of us that we stand in the way of others entering the Kingdom of God and wont go in ourselves. It’s time for each of us to embrace the risk of love knowing that God is our ever present Help and He loves us without condition!
In other words, Lead, Follow or (well, you know the rest!) Let’s move the Kingdom forward today by the risky joy of unconditional Love!