Acts 23:1-3 (HCSB)
1 Paul looked intently at the Sanhedrin and said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience until this day.”2 But the high priest Ananias ordered those who were standing next to him to strike him on the mouth.3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! You are sitting there judging me according to the law, and in violation of the law are you ordering me to be struck?”
Have you heard the one about the American Christian visiting friends in northern Ireland? He was out one day for a walk and felt the cold steel of a gun barrel to the back of his head. Then he heard a man ask: “What’s your religion?” The American knew his answer meant life or death. If he answers “Protestant” to a Catholic – or vice versa – could spell trouble, depending on his assailant. So, in a clever moment he answered: “I’m a Jew.”
The voice replied: “That makes me the luckiest Muslim in Ireleand!”
For all of us, whether we believe it or not…or want it to be or not, our religion is a bit utilitarian. Living in the Bible belt, it’s still socially acceptable – even laudable – to be a Christian. How many candidate fliers did you get in the mail telling you what a good church-going Christian candidate A or B was? My mailbox overflowed.
Similarly, if we’re not careful, we find ourselves using the Bible as a weapon against opponents in order to promote our version of the Bible belt worldview.
We find ourselves to be similar to Ananias – defending the law out of one side of our mouths and breaking it out of the other. Hypocrites. Mask wearers.
Though some in the world might think it of us, that’s not us. Don’t stay out of church because of the hypocrites, I joke. We always have room for one more. But it’s not really true. You and I aren’t hypocrites.
I’m a sinner, saved by grace, not a hypocrite. I’ve got issues – and I don’t pretend I don’t. I need grace – and don’t pretend I don’t. I have blind spots – and don’t pretend I don’t. I’m more Ananias than Paul sometimes. You see, I’m not a hypocrite at all…I’m human. I’m a Christian. Thanks for letting me be one.