Monday, June 1, 2015

Dead Men's Bones

"All that glisters is not gold; 
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life has sold 
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold"

- Wm. Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

As has happened before, this blog post began as a Facebook post that was deleted because it needed, well, more "fleshing out". Yes, pun intended.

This Post is Not About You, or Anyone You Know. This post is about general, universal truths that play out in various ways in all of our lives. 
*end disclaimer*

If you call yourself a Christian - 
-and a teen or young adult, and you're sneaking around trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes: 

Guess what - you're not fooling anyone. 

If you are a Christian -
-and a parent, answer me this: 

How do we help our kids avoid becoming Pharisees? 

Matthew 23:27
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.

The practice of mixing lime and water and applying it to walls and stone surfaces to make them smooth, appealing, and to cover up dirt and grime  is called white-washing. Looks nice on the outside...but it is rotten, dead and stinky on the inside.
How do we end up with some teens and young adults who put on their "super-christian" mask every time it suits them, but in their private life and with their friends are downright vile?

One reason is the practice of "application theology". The Biblical Pharisees were great at this. They put a heavy yoke of laws around the neck, weighting people down with a long list of rules to keep up outward appearances. Act like this, do this, say this. Then we will know you are a good Christian. Apply whitewash here, here, and here, hang out with those people from "good families", sit up straight, and for crying out loud, SMILE!!!

Church, youth group, culture and media, schools, teachers, etc have all been blamed, but it always really comes down to the parents. Home is wear the proverbial road and rubber meet. 

How do presumably well-meaning parents stray so far off from what is real and true and actually helpful when it comes to faith and living with integrity?

Saying to their kids ....not "how are you really doing these days?" but, "have you read your Bible today?"

Not "I care about you and I'm here for you" but, "why don't you act more like so-and-so?"

Not "you've made a mistake, let's talk about why that happened" but, "you're ruining your life. Worse yet, you're ruining my life!"

Because you know what?? These kids are going to mimic just what we parents are doing. In order to tamp down the shame and sin on the inside, they are going to start putting on this whole "holier -than-thou" act, telling their friends and family what they could be doing better. 
When weighed down by guilt, they raise their spirits by looking down the nose at everyone else. 
Christians make me physically sick sometimes. Hiding behind our doors, gossiping about how others don't have it quite all together. 
"Amazing grace...that saved a wretch like me."

Sometimes I think Christian parents paint these masks for their kids because they want to keep the family reputation intact at all costs. Any action or problem that may tarnish the reputation had better get swept under the carpet ASAP. And dealt with. By which they mean never, ever talked about again.

Other times the reason can be the parents own sense of shame. Shame is like a gaping, seeping, raw wound. It makes people do hurtful things in order to protect themselves and their pain. Let's say two Christian parents have an enormous sense of shame over their own previous immorality or promiscuity, and they haven't ever brought that out into the light of forgiveness and freedom. And so it festers. As their children grow up and become sexual beings, parents may subconsciously project a sense of shame onto their kids. The kids never understand why, but they carry this weight of shame into their lives. Yet it wasn't theirs to carry.

Status Quo
Another reason parents may unintentionally prepare their kids to be hypocrites is simply "monkey see, monkey do". Meaning this is what their Christian parents said and did, and so this is what we say and do. It seemed to work, at least OUTWARDLY (ahem, cough), and so let's do the same thing with our kids. And the cycle continues, adding layers of self-righteousness each time. 

Matthew 23:24
You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

There's a point, however, when it ceases to be about the parents and what they may or may not have done in the interest of self-preservation. 

There's a point when young Christians realize they are being fake and hypocritical. When they say to themselves, "What am I doing and who am I trying to impress?? This is exhausting."

Some might respond by being up front and honest. "I actually don't believe in all this stuff. I don't get it. I'm not going to pretend I do." They haven't had a transforming heart and soul encounter with the living God. Nothing has changed inside, they aren't a new creation, and they aren't interested in gluing on leaves and branches to make it appear that they 
are growing. This honesty is refreshing. Sad, yes, when you know what new life in Christ is like, but at least you know where they stand. Prayer Here.

Others might keep the masks painted and close to the bedside table, and hide behind whichever one works for today. There hasn't been regeneration here either. They are just trying to make the good Christian facade enable life to go on as smoothly as possible. They know how they are expected to act. The inner life is where they actually hang out, for real. There may be less prayer here, because this one seems to have it together. 

Some, through the love and grace received from God and others, will turn away from this fake lifestyle. They may get some grief from family and friends who are confused or insecure or feel let down, but soon enough they will be fine. Free to be real, these ones are truly willing to face the struggle and wrestle through problems in an honest way. There is a soft heart that has been turned over to God. 

Then there are those who push on recklessly down a path of pain. They know Jesus, have a personal relationship with Him, but they love their own way more. They continue to play church, but anyone who really knows them can't believe that they call themselves a Christian. This situation is a time bomb that must go off because it is on a trajectory to self-destruct. Unfortunately the damage is often far-reaching and affects many lives besides their own.  

Matthew 13:4,7
As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up...
...Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.             
Teens suffering from Whitewashed Tomb Syndrome: Guess what? This is your life. Is this the person you want to be? This fake, plastic, smiling, self-absorbed caricature of yourself?! What or who is choking you out, cutting you off from life? 
Stop it. 
Make things right before you can't anymore. The teen years are not a dress rehearsal. You won't suddenly change and get a new start when you are an adult. This is it.
The things you do now will affect you for the rest of your life.  
The curtain is up - the show is on. 

Parents attemping to parent well: Do you think you are helping your child by explaining to them, through your words and your example, that being really good will get them to Heaven? Because guess what, they aren't going to be really good, and then they are going to think they are a lost cause. 

Another news flash, if you think those cherubs ARE being really good you'd better give your naive head a shake. I'm very sorry to break the news. Don't hate me (see previous post). Also, don't be intentionally blind and stupid. Open your eyes and deal with it the best you can. 

Parents, churches, and other organizations can encourage young people to be hypocritical when they don't value truth and relationship above status and appearance. 
 We can all be hypocritical. Me included. This post is for teens who have made it a lifestyle, and for parents who are unknowingly enabling this lifestyle. 

If you happen to be a young person who is posing as a sheep while actually being a very different sort of animal, it can't last forever. The pleasure of doing your own thing wears very thin very fast, and you are left trying to fit pieces of your life back together. Throw off the mask now, while you still have your life ahead of you. God knows, anyhow. It's only a matter of time until everyone else does, too.

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