On hypocrites and rebels

“Jake” was a sixteen-year-old kid working full-time in the afternoons and sometimes nights as a closer at MacDonald’s.  He went to school in the day when he wasn’t suspended.  When he did get suspended, it gave him more hours to work.  He took his younger brother to school every morning, and then went back to bed when he had the late shift.  He didn’t sleep a lot, and he didn’t have anything close to a good home life.  He was always looking out for his brother.

Jake smoked all the time, used expletives as adjectives and nouns, got his tongue pierced, and had a low opinion of authority.  He seemed to only see one path for his one life: of working hard when we had to and rebelling when he didn’t.  Jake had a realness about him, and a surprising gentleness, and a gift for treating those weaker than himself with a motivating, welcoming respect.

Even though he and I came from worlds about as different as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Care Bears, I was drawn to him immediately, and we became unusual friends.  He had a close-knit “gang” of friends; I was very lonely at that time, and had trouble connecting with my youth group.  To top it off, I’d been on a mission trip the summer before and came back hating and highly prejudiced against “Christian” teenagers–even though really the social isolation I’d felt had come from a number of factors.  But one factor was that many of the “Christian” teenagers had not extended love to me, and I had felt like I was on the outside of the social network–like, so far out if I’d dialed them up it would have been a different area code.

Enter Jake.  Jake always looked out for me.  He was protective of anyone he saw as weaker.  He never said hateful things to me; he never treated me like the social pariah I felt like I’d become.  One day in the summertime, when I was in the parking lot for a special kids’ day trying to make balloon animals that didn’t pop in the humidity, he brought me out a Sprite.  That was the kind of thing Jake just did.
For years, I used Jake as the reason why I didn’t want to be around “Christians” my age.

Jake wasn’t the only non-Christian who loved on me, either.  There was one of my managers, a transvestite, who was patient with me and understanding.  She would take the time to show me how to do things rather than berate me.  There was the friend who used the F-word every third or fourth word, who treated me like I mattered and wanted to talk to me.  And there was the friend who had smoked since she was twelve years old, and already had a terrible cough.  She walked me through using the cash register, and was there for me when I didn’t know what I was doing.

Jaded and embittered by a few bad encounters I’d had with “Christian” teens, MacDonald’s was a turning point for how I thought about non-Christians.  I didn’t want to go to Hell, so I sort-of “kept” my “Christianity” in my pocket, but I wanted, I longed to have friends who cared for me.  And if non-Christians could love me, they were who I wanted to be around–not to witness to them, but to be cared for by them.

My mission trip had changed how I saw “Christians” . . MacDonald’s changed how I saw non-Christians.  And of those non-Christian friends, Jake was one of the most profound.

I saw in Jake an extraordinary protective kindness.  I knew Christians could have this trait, too, but that wasn’t what matter to me.  What mattered to me was that, if a non-Christian could have this trait, what was the point of ever becoming a Christian, except to get away from Hell?

I wanted to be around Jake, and teens like him.  Jake treated me like a true-blue friend.

I had two boxes for Christians my age: a big box of “hypocrites” and a small box of “the real deal”.  Any experiences I had after that point, I often twisted or spun to make “Christians” fit in the “hypocrites” box.  And sometimes, there really was a reason they “deserved” to be in this box!

When I came across non-Christians who were disloyal, dishonest, and unkind, I boxed them as “bad rebellious non-Christians”.

So I had four boxes:

1. “real-deal Christians”,

2. “hypocrite Christians”,

3. “okay rebellious non-Christians” and,

4. “bad rebellious non-Christians”.

I didn’t realize that the judgments I made were no more valuable than the judgments of a child who goes to Burger King, pulls one of the paper crown templates out of the bin, bends the flaps around so it makes a crown, and wears it on her head.

I didn’t realize this because I didn’t understand much of anything about the grace of Christ.

Had I understood that Christ is the Servant of the Lost, I would have known He is willing and waiting to save anyone who will come to Him and repent–even rebels and, yes, even hypocrites.

God doesn’t look at people and say, “Eww.  I don’t like that character trait.  That person goes to Hell.”  Instead, He opens His arms to anyone who will accept the Lordship of His Son.

Had I understood that Christ is the Most Patient One, I would have known that He is willing to give everyone time to repent–even the most hypocritical people.

Not everyone who goes to church knows Christ.  Christianity isn’t a status or a gilding, it’s an adoption.  Could Jesus strike everyone in the church dead who is just “fronting” and doesn’t really know Him?  He could for sure!  But if He did, instead of writing this blog, I would be six feet under.

God is patient, waiting for us to change . . waiting even on the people we want Him to judge already!  I wanted God to blow the horns of judgment on some of the teenagers on my mission trip, and yet I desperately needed Him to give me time to change.  It doesn’t work both ways.

Had I understood that Christ is the Giver, I would have known that the beautiful qualities in non-Christians don’t come from their “non-Christianness”.

All good gifts are given by the Creator of all good things.  If Jesus never gave good gifts to us when we were lost, how could we ever come to Him?  We would be loveless and hopeless and not even have a desire to change.  It is because we can love, because we can have faith, because we do want a better world that we thirst for Him!

Jesus gives good gifts to everyone.  We should always remember that we are made in the image of God.  Whether we use the gifts He has given us to reflect His image or not is up to us, but we are all given these gifts.

God gives presents to everyone, not just to those who serve Him.  Jake’s loyalty, sincerity, and service to others were gifts from Christ to create in him a hunger for salvation.

Christ is the most loyal, keeping us safe in His salvation when we cry out to Him . . He is the most sincere, living by and teaching us total Truth . . and He has given the greatest acts of service ever known, culminating in His death on the cross and His advocacy for us at the right hand of God.

The gifts Jesus gave Jake prove how much He loves Jake, and how much He desires for Jake to know Life.  In Jake, like in all of us, is a glimpse of the image of God that was once perfect in us when God created us at the beginning of the world.  Even though we are fallen, and even though it would have been perfectly just to do so, God does not remove His image from our fallen souls until the time He has give us to repent and turn to Him is up.

Had I understood that Christ is the Rescuer, I would have known not to throw anyone in any box.

Christ has total power in the realm of rescue.  There is no one too hypocritical or too rebellious for Jesus to save.

He gives us examples of both extremes.  Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, Matthew the tax collector, and Nicodemus, a Pharisee, are on the one side.  The thief on the cross, the woman caught in the act of adultery and about to be stoned, and the demon-possessed man who walked among tombs are on the other.  Jesus is willing and able to save both.  He does not deny hypocrites His rescue, and He does not deny rebels His rescue, and for us to try to do either is to sin against the very gift of Christ on the cross.

And had I understood that Christ is the Perfecter, I would not have tried to sort people by my “standards” of who is a hypocrite and who is a rebel. 

Only Christ has the right to sort out who is good and who is evil, and that decision will not be made on how happy or upset someone makes me.

The decision of who is good and who is evil will be made on two criteria.  First, on whether or not a person has violated God’s law (and every one of us has, hypocrites and rebels alike), and second on whether or not that person has been atoned for by Christ’s gift.  There is no other standard.

And the terrible and beautiful irony to all this?

I was the hypocrite and the rebel.

Terrible, because I condemned myself on both sides.

Beautiful, because He saved me anyway.

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. (Psalm 36:7, NLT)


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