Thursday, June 11, 2015

Dead Men Walking

Cemetery outside Jerusalem

"But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it. " (Luke 11:42-44 NASB)

In Israel, the "graves" are above-ground boxes in which the bodies are laid. Instead of flowers at the gravesite, visitors leave stones atop the boxes. Visiting a cemetery outside the city walls of Jerusalem, I was surprised to see thousands of bleached-white stone boxes; I was amazed to see hundreds of stones atop many of the boxes. It was jarring evidence of death and loss, in stark contrast to the tree-shaded, grass-covered graves in this country. Their graves were clearly visible. Death in boxes.

We continue the "woes" today. "Woe", we learned earlier, is a word of denunciation meaning "you should be ashamed of yourself". Jesus said that the Pharisees, religious leaders and experts in Jewish law, were like "concealed tombs". A concealed tomb contains death, but the people who walk over it don't realize it contains a dead person. They don't know they have been "contaminated by touching death." 

The Pharisees, He said, were full of death, not life. Everyone who came in contact with the Pharisees became, in a way, ceremonially unclean because of their brush with the putrefaction within. The death in them was so well-concealed by their good deeds and religious language that most people couldn't recognize it. It looked like life to them. 

Therein is a major problem in the church, even today. Spiritual death can be so well concealed by good deeds, large donations, regular church attendance, and religious language that the death within is misinterpreted as life. It's a tragedy for all of us. First, for the people who "fake" life in Christ. Second, those who view these fakers and believe that they are seeing the life of a disciple are sadly deceived.

Life in Christ is not about saying a few words of a prayer to obtain fire insurance for the hereafter. Life in Christ is about discipleship, following His leading and not our own. Following Him means loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. 

When seekers view the lives of what Jesus might have called "dead men walking", they are apt to misunderstand faith. It is no wonder when they turn away.

Our cemeteries are filled with concealed graves. The grass, flowers, and trees are beautiful trappings that help conceal them, but there is still death within. When we are like concealed graves, it is nothing short of tragedy. 

I want to be filled with life, I want my deeds to accurately reflect the Christ within, don't you? Today, let's make sure that there is life within us because of our relationship with the One who IS life.  

The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kill, and destroy: I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly. (John 10:10 ASV)