Occasionally when I read scripture it surprises me, says Dave Newton.
I had made it.
Three months of planning, duplicitous living, secrets and half-truths had all been exposed with one word that brought me so much freedom.
As I guided my wife into a room packed with friends and family, her surprise birthday party was now out in the open and we could get on with enjoying the evening.
I wonder if you have ever been surprised – you heard some unexpected news, received a text that changed the course of your day, week or year. Your favourite team won their match in astonishing circumstances, or someone you looked up to and respected let you down.
Occasionally when I read Scripture it surprises me. It’s not that I’ve not read it before or I am unfamiliar with it, but there are moments and accounts which really grab my attention.
I think of the moment when Jesus entered the temple and turned over the tables, driving out the tax collectors (Matt 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18), or the time He said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan," (Matt 16:23).
By-the-way, neither of these are recommended as practice in pastoral ministry.
There are two accounts though that stand out for me which help indicate the heart and priority of Jesus towards people.
The first is how he treats the woman caught in 'the very act' of adultery (John 8:1-11), and the other is his scathing exchange with the religious leaders (Matt 23:27-28).
It is more than clear throughout the life, actions and teaching of Jesus that one thing he would not tolerate was hypocrisy.
The Oxford Dictionary defines hypocrisy as 'the practice of claiming to have higher standards but failing to live up to them.'
Jesus launched into the religious leaders expressing, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but, on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matt 23:27-28).
As if this were not surprising enough, he went on to call these devout religious leaders a 'brood of vipers.'"
And yet Jesus was presented with a woman who had clearly been caught breaking the law and was invited to offer his judgment based on his interpretation of the law of Moses. In this instance, Jesus clearly shows grace and forgiveness and offers transformation by highlighting the sin of all present rather than exposing the one.
It seems apparent that hypocrisy is something that has no place in God’s economy.
Recent events in culture have also brought their surprise; whether it is prominent Christian leaders and their hidden lives, or government officials saying one thing and doing another. In both these instances, it has been clear that hypocrisy is not something culture is willing to tolerate.
As we seek to be light in a generation that so desperately needs it, it is vital that in our attempt to uphold Christian values and stand up for what we believe, we don’t unintentionally miss opportunities to offer grace and forgiveness.
Shining the light doesn’t simply expose the darkness it also transforms it, leaving it significantly different to how we found it.
To be true beacons of light in our communities, families and society, we must ensure our actions and motives match our words; that the freedom we declare and offer is also lived and experienced.
Let's ensure that the surprise we offer people is the hope and example of a life truly transformed by Jesus.
This article first appeared in September's Direction Magazine. For further details please click here.
Enjoy this article? Don't forget to share