Gnostic America

Friday of Trinity 22: Are You a Pretend Sinner?

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“So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’

There’s a certain type of hypocrisy that Christians are falsely accused of, but there’s another kind of hypocrisy that’s sad to see, when it does happen.

What’s the hypocrisy Christians are falsely accused of? It’s the understanding that hypocrisy is saying one thing but doing another. That’s the modern understanding of hypocrisy, but not the biblical definition. In any event, many will point out how Christians do this or that – that is, they sin – and then say, “See! Christians say we should all follow the Ten Commandments, but look, they don’t even follow it.”

Um, perhaps someone should inform them that there’s this Christian thing called confession and repentance, whereby we confess ourselves to be sinners who break the Ten Commandments. How is a Christian a hypocrite when he says, “We should keep the Ten Commandments, but I break them all the time. This is why I need Jesus.”?

Hypocrisy that’s sad to see is the biblical form or hypocrisy. Biblical hypocrisy is not saying one thing and doing another, but simply pretending to be something you aren’t. The Greek word hypocrite means “actor.” It’s someone who is acting, pretending, or putting on a false front.

The servant in our Gospel put on a false front. He took a posture of begging for forgiveness, when in fact in his heart he truly believed he could have paid it all off, that debt was something he could take care of himself. He was pretending to need mercy. What he really wanted was time.

Likewise is the one who has been forgiven much by the Lord, but who cannot forgive others, a pretender, an actor, playing the part of being a forgiven sinner, of having been forgiven much, but who has no forgiveness for the one who wrongs him. This person never really “connected” with what the Lord has done for him. He lacks faith. He’s only pretending to have faith.

The Christian forgives. This is not like any other work, like keeping the Ten Commandments which we all fail in. Jesus has no emphasis that those who disobey parents, or hurt others, or lust, or lie, or covet will go to hell – those sins are all forgiven. He has no petition in the Lord’s Prayer like, “Give us this day our daily bread, as I in turn refrain from rebellion, hate, lust, jealousy, and covetousness.” But He does have something like this for forgiveness.

As He says, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” This isn’t Law; this is Gospel! Isn’t forgiveness Gospel, for goodness’ sake? The Church will be a place where the Gospel is proclaimed and its members will support and carry that work.

On these terms, lack of a forgiving heart is related to a rejection of the Holy Spirit. Of course it is! The Holy Spirit was given with the gift of absolution. The Holy Spirit’s work is to work reconciliation with the Father, to deliver to us by declaration the fellowship Jesus has regained with the Father. His work is all about forgiveness. So, having been dealt with by this spiritual work, how can we possibly not forgive others, or present the Church as a place other than a place of forgiveness?

The Church and its members are just playing pretend if the Church fails in this mission.

And others notice it! That’s what we get in today’s passage. Other fellow servants were grieved when they saw what the first servant did to the other one. They saw it! They saw the hypocrisy going on, and it wasn’t pretty. Here was a man who had just been introduced to a wonderful world of goodness, where all his debts were forgiven, and nothing from this world carried over into his own life.

This actually takes us a back to the modern understanding of hypocrisy as well, which is legitimate. How can Christians claim they are forgiven by the Lord, but then not be forgiving to one another? OK, fine, Christians claim covetousness is wrong, but yet we covet all the time – hey, we’re working on it! Don’t claim we’re hypocrites because we struggle to live by the very moral code by which we know ourselves to be sinners.

However, you have a point when you point out how we’re all about forgiveness, but don’t show that forgiveness in our lives. Or, when our church is not first and foremost seen as a place of forgiveness. That is sad to see, and the toxicity of such churches is their downfall.

Now, caveat time. Because in today’s age, many will say, “See! That’s why the church should be accepting of gay marriage, homosexuals, sexual immorality, and what not.” But acceptance is not forgiveness. Acceptance is to take someone with a debt and say, “Hey, that’s not a debt, so why would it need to be forgiven? We’ll just accept you as you are, as if you had no debt.”

No, actually the Church is getting in the way of forgiveness when it denies certain sins are sins. The homosexual will never know himself a sinner in need of forgiveness if he’s never told homosexuality is a sin. That church is becoming a stumbling block to the homosexual, causing him to stumble in his faith, not because it denied him forgiveness, but because it denied him the need for forgiveness in the first place. What’s really the difference?

Acceptance requires no sacrifice, because it denies the load of debt. Forgiveness requires sacrifice. The king lost something real and tangible in his forgiveness, 10,000 talents. The servant was called to lose something real and tangible in return, 200 denarii. Jesus lost His life to give forgiveness for the sin of homosexuality and sexual immorality. Woe betide anyone who would deny either the sinfulness of that sin, or how it’s forgiven.

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