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PASTOR’S CORNER: Creating a pyramid for change

“I’m sick and tired of you chu’ch folks!”

Noooo! This does not describe my thoughts about those of us who regularly attend Sunday church services. This is the first line of a rap piece written and recorded by a very talented, articulate young black man named Landa Gherra. He raps at length about “chu’ch folks”, but he is very clear about to whom he is referring.

His very next line, “Now I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout all ya’ll; you know who you is,” makes it quite clear that his reference is to the few hypocrites in our churches who deliberately project a false image of righteousness publicly but who, in reality, are just the opposite. Check him out on youtube.com. He’s definitely telling the truth.

Hypocritical mindsets among so-called religious folks are nothing new. Long before he built his church, Jesus encountered this situation in Jewish temples he visited.

In Matthew 23:13-36, Jesus jumps all over the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees he found in the temple. His words are too numerous to quote here, but he summarizes his findings nicely in verse 28.

Prior to that verse, he called them “hypocrites” six times; then in verse 28 he tells them, “outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” (NLT).

It’s amazing how little we have changed over the centuries. Just look around and it’s obvious that Jesus’ observation is likewise applicable in today’s churches.

So what can we do about it? It’s obviously counter-productive and outside of God’s will for all churches. In Matthew 23, Jesus puts us on the road to solving the problem.

He shows us that those who demonstrate hypocritical attitudes are afflicted with spiritual blindness. They are blind to their hypocrisy and their spiritual impurity.

Consequently, they don’t recognize that they have a problem that has a negative impact on their relationship with God. Jesus says that the only solution is recognizing and admitting to the problem, and thereafter to begin a cleansing regimen beginning on the inside. Cleaning the inside first, he says, will automatically result in a clean outside.

Jesus is weighing in on the Old Testament observation that we tend to do what we think about, so it makes perfectly good sense to start with attitude change if we want behavior change. He’s giving us the solution to the problem in a general sense; but for specifics, we need to look elsewhere in the scriptures. Peter’s second letter gives us what we’re looking for.

In 2Peter 1:9, he shares with us that “he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off,” a direct reference to the spiritual blindness Jesus refers to in Matthew 23. Peter implies that if we gain those things he refers to, inward purity will result and behavior change is guaranteed. Peter lists these eight things in a specific order with faith at the top of the list.

Think of them as a pyramid for change, with faith at the peak, followed in order by: moral excellence, knowledge of Christ, self-control, endurance, holiness, brotherly kindness and love.

If we all make an effort to think daily in the direction this pyramid suggests we can effectively eliminate hypocritical attitudes in our churches and God will be extremely pleased. We will lack conflict, confusion, criticism, disagreements and replace all negativity with positivity.

That’s God’s best for his people. Start the ball rolling in your church. Maybe it will catch on.

 

Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church. Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in Los Angeles.

Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear monthly in The Wave and on its website, www.wavepublication.com.