Many, many years ago, God had an issue with the people that claimed to be his followers. These people had openly called themselves "God’s people". They bragged about their special privilege among the nations. But their behavior was so hypocritical that they became an embarrassment to God’s name. They had become so full of their own pride and their own pursuits, and so weak in their influence, that the other nations ridiculed God’s people… which naturally extended into a ridicule of God. When God’s people spoke, others only laughed at their hollow, false words. When God’s people claimed righteousness, others only needed to point out their blatant sins. When God’s people acted as if they were the possessors of justice, others only needed to say: “Ha! You are no different than us… you oppress the poor, you take advantage of foreigners, you mistreat women and minorities, you pilfer and profane and pervert. You lie in wait and plan in secret. You are no better than us… and perhaps you are worse… because you actually claim to be better.”
Back in those days, God told a man named Isaiah to give this message: “My name is blasphemed all day long because of you.” (Isaiah 52:5)
Paul addresses this problem in the letter-book of Romans.
Romans 2:17-24 ~~ 17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Paul is writing as a Jewish person living in a Gentile world. Paul is also writing to a group of people in Rome that consisted of a sizeable representation of Jewish people living in the very non-Jewish Rome. Simply put, Paul wants them to check their attitude+actions. A superiority-complex has no place in true faith. A boasting believer reinforces the reasonable doubt of a non-believer. A person who has had the privilege of learning the Good News about God had, therefore, better not become conceited about that learning. Someone who preaches against the sin in others, but fails to apply the same truth in their own lives, gives a rotten gospel. A hypocritical message from the mouth of an arrogant believer becomes toxic in the ears of non-believers. And the result is a society that ridicules the believers… and blasphemes God.
So forgive me this little modern day rant – but I can't help it. I am concerned with the state of Christianity in our day (within which I include myself). I used to think that because I was American, and that because I was a Christian, and that because I was an "evangelical" Christian… that I was pretty darn special in the eyes of God. But now I am convinced that people like me need to read this passage. And after reading this passage, I am convinced it should be read it again. And again. And again.
It is true that people in our society blaspheme God often these days… all over the TV, all over my kid's playground… all over relationships… all over. But I am convinced that it is also true that people blaspheme God because the message North American Christians have lived has not always been true. I believe many people have rejected God in our society because there have been far too many times when “Christians” have not represented God well. “Christians” have been known to point fingers at the splinters of others while blindly ignoring their own planks. How do we expect our society to react to this? How can we expect our society to not blaspheme God when our inconsistent faith has led them this way? How long can we cry “Lamb!” when we have acted like wolves. We “believers” like to consider ourselves “guides for the blind”… but we have led for too long with our own eyes shut. Our society across the continent is saying, “You are no better than us” (e.g. Read UnChristian by David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons). While many Christians would like to blame non-believers for the corruption of our modern nations, perhaps much of the blame is on the distorted message from “believers”.
It could be said that God is blasphemed in our society today because of us.
Who would want to embrace a message of hypocrisy and arrogance? I wouldn’t.
(part 2 tomorrow)