Rev. Jacob Ehrhard
The world loves a good hypocrite. Nothing makes the Twitterverse explode like a Christian who is revealed to be caught up in the very sin he preaches against. "Be true to yourself!" is the world's sermon-and even better if your true self involves some sort of alternative sexual appetite. Even Christians get downright giddy when a Christian falls into public and shameful sin, and seem to delight in heaping up the shame. Hypocrite!
The reason why the world delights in Christian hypocrites is not because it hates the person, but because it hates the message. When a person cries hypocrisy, he wants to discredit the hypocrite's message. Which means he wants to discredit Jesus. He wants to say that Jesus' Word is powerless, His promise empty. He wants to show that Baptism is as much of a farce as the sinner's crumbling public image. He thinks he has definitive proof that the Church is nothing more than a theater and her fellowship is nothing more than playacting.
Our church speaks to this: "Strictly speaking, the Church is the congregation of saints and true believers. However, because many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled within them in this life [Matthew 13:24-30], it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat" (Matthew 23:2). Both the Sacraments and Word are effective because of Christ's institution and command, even if they are administered by evil men" (Augsburg Confession, Article VIII).
The Sacraments and the Word of God are effective because of Christ's institution and command. This is a twofold comfort for Christians. First, even pastors and preachers sin. Sometimes shockingly so. But their sin does not negate God's Word. It is true because of Him who is the Truth. Second, the Sacraments and Word are effective for evil men. They are effective when the outward mask is ripped away to expose the sinful monstrosity underneath. Love covers a multitude of sins, and greater love has no one than this: that someone lay down His life for His friends. The blood shed on Calvary covers you and buries your sin under Christ's crucifixion.
And more than that (our Lord loves to give gifts!), these means of grace create an inverted hypocrisy. The world sees us as congregations of sinners. And they're right. But that's only an outward appearance. Inwardly, hidden beneath the wreck of sin, is a new creation. "For you have died," St. Paul writes, "and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:3-4). So let the world mock our hypocrisy. Christ has born that shame. Turn to His Word, His body and blood, and find hope in that day when Christ returns to reveal the work He has hidden in you.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard is pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, New Haven MO.
Created: June 30th, 2015