The Disconnect Between Lips and Life

Why is it so devastating when a pastor has an affair or a priest molests a child?

No doubt we are shaken to the core, but why? Well, it’s hard to see anyone fall, and people who we’ve elevated as heroes or trusted voices fall hardest for us. Also, no one likes to be misled, and these things are nothing less than a betryal of our trust. But perhaps most disturbing is that the corruption has been covered up with a facade of righteousness and we were powerless to help because it was hidden from us. Not only have we been lied to by the person who claimed to love us, but we were stripped of one of love’s greatest abilities: to help.

Throughout the Scriptures, God has spoken out harshly against hypocrisy. In the books of the prophets and especially in the life of Christ, nothing brought such indignation as those who claimed righteousness with the lips, without having it in their hearts. Jesus, our gentle Savior, lashed out at the scribes and Pharisees in terms that certainly couldn’t be considered unifying. He knew their hypocrisy was self-serving. All hypocrisy is self-serving. They can’t find out, can’t rock the boat, keep the gears turning, the machine running. Too lazy to follow hard after Christ, too proud to let anyone else know that. You want, as they say, to have your cake and eat it too.

In Matthew 15, Jesus makes one of His most poignient remarks about hypocrisy. The Pharisees are bothered that His disciples hadn’t washed their hands before eating; how could they ignore this important tradition? And Jesus, in an almost “it figures” tone, refers to Isaiah 29:13, pointing out that they had grown close to Him in their speech, but their hearts were far from Him.

Take a look at Isaiah 29:9-16:

Stop and consider this great tragedy. Blind yourself and you are blind. Israel is in a drunken stupor, but it’s not from alcohol–it was brought upon them by the Lord. They were all blanketed in dark blindness. To them, understanding was like a sealed book in the hands of an illiterate man.

The reason? They came close to Him with their lips–they even showed honor. But their hearts were far from Him and they only feared Him because of their traditions.

He then promises to do something marvelous, even though they’re still blinded. He pronounces a death sentence upon their so-called wisdom and discernment and cautions all who would try to hide what they’ve done from Him. What a complete turn around for the clay to deny the Potter!

Perhaps even more convicting is what God tells Ezekiel in Ezekiel 33:

“Ezekiel, you realize what’s happening, don’t you? The people are talking about you everywhere, ready to come hear a Word from the Lord. They gather around you as people do, they sit and listen as if they were my people. But they don’t do what I say. They show me great love with their lips, but their heart isn’t there. It’s out chasing something else. To them, you are entertainment. They come for the show, like you’re a musician and they love your performance; but they walk away, unfazed, unchanged.”

I cannot think of a better description for the state of our churches today than this 3000 year old message. We may not be hiding an affair or abuse, but where are our hearts when the preacher speaks? The state of your heart on Sunday will be the state of your life on Monday.

Let’s ask a few more pertinent, perhaps more difficult questions. What would bring you to a church? What would drive you away? How many of you walk out of a church service impressed by the show? How many won’t go back because the preacher was monotone? What is it that really matters to you?

Commercialism, hypocrisy and complacency–it’s a deadly concoction, and one that we have all too quickly embraced in the name of relevance. But I’m afraid that, more often than not, relevancy is just a subtle way of saying that Christ alone isn’t enough.

As soon as you start adding things to Christ to make Him relevant, you take away the full power that He brings. Ninety percent Christ and ten percent something else leaves you with only ninety percent of that which really matters. So people get a watered-down Jesus and in turn see little or no change in their lives. They become disillusioned with Christianity and face a crossroad: pursue the pure, not-from-concentrate Jesus; denounce Christianity altogether; or do what so many have done, disconnect the life from the lips and become hypocrites.