Of Hypocrites and Grace

“But sometimes a hypocrite is nothing more than a person who is in the process of changing.”

It has been a couple of weeks since my fiancé sent me this quote from the book he is reading (Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson), but I cannot seem to shake these words from my mind.

I have been guilty of judging hypocrites too harshly more often than not. When I find that someone’s actions do not align with their words, I am more likely to write them off as insincere than leave room for the possibility that the person they have been in the past has simply not yet met up with the person they strive to be. And I wonder, as I fight my own battle of becoming, just how much of a hypocrite I appear to others.

If you have followed me for any length of time, you’ll know I tend to live by the words of Jesus and Hannah Brencher. I think we all know that Jesus is a huge advocate for redemption, but here’s what Hannah has to say about it:

“Leave space and room in every sentence you write for grace and redemption. The most beautiful thing about characters is their ability to change. Don’t ever steal that from someone by writing a story they can’t grow out of one day.”

When I look around my world today, I don’t see a lot of space for grace and redemption. While the potential for growth remains in the heart of each and every individual, it is as though the world in which we live has become the enemy of grace.

We are a people divided, each declaring the other side to be wrong, never stooping to anything so low as empathy. We cast accusations regardless of the lack of evidence and rally people to our sides because heaven forbid we hold our opinions alone. Now we have to feel justified in our hatred.

I was on Twitter the other day and stumbled across a post about a well known author who had allegedly admitted to an accusation of sexual harassment last year. The person sharing this post was appalled that the author in question was still publishing books and essentially called for a boycott of both this author and the agent who represented him. If that were the end of the post, I probably would have kept scrolling past without much thought, but it didn’t stop there. The person posting went so far as to call out the people who were seeing this post and not sharing it because apparently everyone needed to be outraged that this author was continuing to try to make a living despite his past sins.

According to that post, I am a horrible person for not forwarding this information to everyone I know, despite there being no actual information shared. I have no idea what this author said or did to merit such an accusation, therefore I have no idea whether or not this punishment fits the crime, yet I am supposed to blindly accept that this author is the actual worst and convince all my followers that they should hate him, too. (Interestingly enough, I had read one of this author’s books and didn’t love it, so I guess I’m boycotting the author anyway, but just because he isn’t my cup of tea, not because I’ve been convinced that he is a sexual predator.)

Sadly, this incident is not isolated. We are crucifying people for the sins of the past. Things that were said or done five, ten, twenty, or even thirty years ago are being dug up and judged by the masses to determine the character of the person in question. “This person said or did X. Proceed the public campaign to ruin their lives/careers!”

Don’t misunderstand me. It’s not that I think sin should go unpunished, but I do sometimes wonder if the punishment the public prescribes appropriately fits the crime. I wonder if, after all that time has passed, the punishment has already been paid in some fashion. I wonder if the person being accused today does not also condemn the person of yesteryear.

Mostly I wonder if we have removed the space for redemption in their stories. If, by refusing to accept that a person can change for the better, we are molding them into the very villains we imagine them to be.

I fear we have become a society that would cast stones first and ask questions later. Worse yet, I fear we have become a society that casts stones without ever bothering to investigate the truth. That we blindly accept the cries of the masses to crucify an innocent man, never questioning his lack of guilt. Never regretting the role we played in his downfall.

Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”

Even as self-righteous as we’ve become, it takes only a little introspection to realize we don’t qualify for that privilege.

We are all hypocrites, trying to reconcile new beliefs and old habits. We are all on a journey of becoming, often failing to uphold our own standards, but pressing onward regardless of how many times we’ve fallen.

So please, for the love of all that is sacred, drop the stones to make room for grace. If we covet second chances for ourselves, I think we should afford others the same privilege.

Instead of striving against our perceived enemies, let us strive to redeem the world in which we live.

You Are Worth It

Today, I’m at a loss for words. It happens from time to time. I keep typing letters onto the page only to delete them and try again. Still I find that my words are insufficient as everything within my heart tries to rush out all at once. The phrases jumble together. Trip over the next. And somehow I can’t seem to say how important it is that you know you are beautiful. That you understand that God doesn’t make mistakes. That you grasp the depth of His love for you.

But the words are missing and and those kinds of words have conditions, anyway. Not that I’m going to change my mind and take them back the next time you make a mistake, but because you will want me to take them back. Because you will argue that if I only knew who you are… What you’ve done…

I could say it all day in a thousand words or more, but until you believe them for yourself, my words are meaningless. Empty. I may be talking to someone in the world, but I’m certainly not talking to you.

Oh, but I am talking to you. You and you only. You’re the one who needs to hear it. And how I wish I could take your face in my hands like the preschoolers I spend time with every weekday afternoon. “Hey you,” I’d say, “you’re worth it. You are one incredible human being.” And I would mean it from the bottom of my heart. “Hey you,” I’d say, “you’re beautiful. You are one breathtaking masterpiece.” And I would pray those words wouldn’t bounce off of the carefully crafted wall you’ve built to protect yourself – the one that is actually harming you instead.

You’re the only one who can penetrate that wall. You’re the only one whose words are loud enough to force truth into the darkened corners of your wounded spirit. So please, take it from someone who sees what you are somehow missing, and tell yourself that you’re worth it.

Overflow

Yesterday, during youth group, Ray played a video that started with the image of a glass of dirty, dark water. Then these two young people opened their mouths and began to speak about who we are in Christ. As the Truth poured from their lips, a faucet started dripping. Drip. Drip. Drip.

The longer they spoke, the more the faucet opened. From drip to steady trickle. From steady trickle to a nonstop stream of clear water. The water poured into the glass until it overflowed, forcing the original, contaminated water out and replacing it with the clean substance that gives life.

I loved the imagery in that video. Because that is exactly what Truth does for us.

There are so many lies in the world. Lies that we hear every day. Many of those lies are easily identified, but others… Others are easier to accept as truth. Others sink more easily into our hearts and cloud the view God intended for us to have of ourselves.

There’s this thing called Truth. And most of us know the Truth, but find it so easy to forget. So impossible to believe. But the Truth remains:

You are a child of God, chosen before the creation of the world.

You are more than a conqueror.

You are redeemed from the curse of the law, delivered from the power of darkness, and free from condemnation.

You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

You are the bride of Christ.

You are God’s workmanship, created to do great things.

You have been given abundant, overflowing life.

You, just like the clear glass of water from the video, have something to offer the world. Something that is pure and beautiful and life-giving. You have Truth.

And though the world is busy pretending that it doesn’t need Truth, there are billions of people on this planet who are aching for what you have. 

So let the Truth sink deeply into your heart. Let it transform the way you see yourself. And let it overflow until it brings life to this dying world.

Prophesy Illusions

They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.” -Isaiah 30:10

Prophesy illusions.

Those are the words that hit me hardest during my quiet time this morning, both for their poetic ring and their sad reflection of my world today. How many of us are living an illusion – a deceptive appearance of something that isn’t really there? How many of us pretend that all is well in our world when, in reality, we’re on the brink of a major meltdown? How many of us force a smile to our face as we tell ourselves we’re really just fine? We don’t need to change anything – fix anything.

We, like the obstinate nation in the book of Isaiah, ask for an illusion. We paint a mirage for ourselves of roses without thorns, hoping that maybe, if we pretend for long enough, our illusion will become our reality. We reject the truth because we’d rather live a lie, pretending that life is sunshine and rainbows. Have you ever tried to catch a rainbow? It’s impossible. You can see them, but you can never touch one because it isn’t really there. That’s the thing about illusions. They fade. Dissipate. They slip like sand through our fingertips and are gone forever.

I don’t want to be like the people described in the book of Isaiah. I’ll take the roses with the thorns, the sunshine and the rain, the laughter with the pain. I’d rather feel the sting of truth than know nothing but lies. So today I set aside my illusions – my fantasies and disguise – and beg for Truth to infuse my life with it’s healing blade.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. -John 8:32

#4 – Back to the Basics

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I scoff at the basic truths of Christianity. Not that I don’t believe them, but it can seem that I’ve heard them a hundred million bazillion times. Sometimes when I hear the words, “Jesus loves you,” I just want to shout, “Okay, I get it already! Do you really have to remind me again and again?”

As a matter of fact, yes, I do need to be reminded. Because, while I know the truth in my head, sometimes I forget to let it sink into my heart. Sometimes I don’t really believe it. Sometimes I don’t let it reach into the depths of my soul and transform me from the inside out. Sometimes I move to the rhythm of faith completely out of habit rather than passion.

But think about it. Those three seemingly simple words carry a lot of weight. Jesus loves me. Me. The God who created the universe, set the stars in the sky, and keeps the world in motion truly cares about the tiniest details of my life. That’s huge. No other religion in the world boasts a God who loves His creation. No followers of other faiths can revel in that fact. And sadly, most Christians (myself included) don’t really revel in it either. We accept it as a basic truth, a simple rule. It’s as routine as “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’.” We don’t even consciously think about it anymore; we just write.

But the Bible isn’t meant to be a rulebook; it’s God’s love letter to His children. The words “Jesus loves you” aren’t merely lyrics to that first song you learned in Sunday school; they are a reality with the potential to turn your world upside down. It’s time to go back to the basics of Christianity and allow the marvelous truth of God’s love to break through our religious routine.

You Matter

I’m in the middle of a pretty freaky book, but that’s not what had me tossing and turning in bed the other night. My mind kept replaying this snippet of a conversation – this one tiny piece of a testimony:

I was the pregnant 8th grader everyone gossiped about. “That trashy little girl.” But no one ever asked me how I got pregnant. And no one ever stopped to tell me that I matter.

I lay in bed for a long time and cried over the sorry state of my world. Over a people who are quick to judge and slow to extend mercy.

“You matter.”

Those words would have meant the world to this lonely, frightened 8th grader. But the people who were too busy judging a character that wasn’t even on trial were too blind to see the gem underneath.

She couldn’t see it either. She didn’t think she mattered.

I’m thankful to say that, years down the road, she met a God who told her the truth. She finally heard the words, “You matter,” and let them seep into her heart. But what it would have meant to hear those words in 8th grade…

So I’m here to tell you that you matter. No matter how many crimes have been committed against you. No matter how many wrongs you’ve done.

You matter.

And because you matter, your life has purpose. Because you matter, there is strength to face another day. Because you matter, you can hold your head high amidst the jeering of the crowd – against the lies and hatred you encounter along the way.

You matter. You honestly, truly matter.

Please believe these words I’m saying and, because you believe them, tell someone else she matters too.

Back to the Basics

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I scoff at the basic truths of Christianity. Not that I don’t believe them, but it can seem that I’ve heard them a hundred million bazillion times. Sometimes when I hear the words, “Jesus loves you,” I just want to shout, “Okay, I get it already! Do you really have to remind me again and again?”

As a matter of fact, yes, I do need to be reminded. Because, while I know the truth in my head, sometimes I forget to let it sink into my heart. Sometimes I don’t really believe it. Sometimes I don’t let it reach into the depths of my soul and transform me from the inside out. Sometimes I move to the rhythm of faith completely out of habit rather than passion.

But think about it. Those three seemingly simple words carry a lot of weight. Jesus loves me. Me. The God who created the universe, set the stars in the sky, and keeps the world in motion truly cares about the tiniest details of my life. That’s huge. No other religion in the world boasts a God who loves His creation. No followers of other faiths can revel in that fact. And sadly, most Christians (myself included) don’t really revel in it either. We accept it as a basic truth, a simple rule. It’s as routine as “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’.” We don’t even consciously think about it anymore; we just write.

But the Bible isn’t meant to be a rulebook; it’s God’s love letter to His children. The words “Jesus loves you” aren’t merely lyrics to that first song you learned in Sunday school; they are a reality with the potential to turn your world upside down. It’s time to go back to the basics of Christianity and allow the marvelous truth of God’s love to break through our religious routine.

What simple truth are you going to allow to revolutionize the way you’ve been thinking lately?