Jesus was always very understanding and forgiving of others while on earth. Pretenders were the one group of people who bothered Jesus most. People who pretended to be something they weren’t. Jesus even went as far as to call one group of scribes and Pharisees – “white washed tombs, hypocrites and snakes.”

Hypocrites and pretenders are always a problem. In the church I’ve heard some people say they don’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites there. I always say, “That’s OK, there’s still room for one more. Come and join us.” Others are looking for the “perfect’ church, but when they join it, it won’t be.

We all need to be careful not to assume we are doing better than we are. Pretending to be something we aren’t always causes problems.

A group of children were playing in the basement on a rainy day. They decided to “play church.” One child was the preacher, another the organist, a couple of kids were greeters, and the rest of the kids were the congregation. One little boy said, “ What about Jesus? Shouldn’t Jesus be in church?” The rest agreed and the child who made the point was made Jesus. “What do I do?” he asked. “How do I play Jesus?” He was told by some of the older children that they would fasten him to one of the support posts in the basement, pretending that it was the cross. Then the others would call him names, throw things at him and be mean to him in other ways. The little boy thought about that a minute and then said, “I don’t want to play Jesus; let’s just play church.”

During the season of Lent we are reminded what came first was the Crucifixion of Jesus. From the above story we might conclude – to leave out the cross is just to “play church”. We can’t pretend we love Jesus if we don’t walk with him on the way of the cross. We can’t fake real faith. We can’t fool God into thinking we’re committed to him.

I know a lot of folks who are all caught up with acting. When certain important people come around they put on a big show. Later, they don’t act nearly as nice to those they work with.

A businessman was on a flight like many he had traveled before. This time he noticed one flight attendant who was especially cheerful and helpful. He stopped her to ask why she was so pleasant. She said she didn’t used to act that way. Before she did just enough to get by. Then she heard about a flight attendant who was left in someone’s will for being so nice to all her passengers. She acted especially helpful in case she might get rich the same way. She decided it felt so good to be nice that she might as well do it all the time. Our real faith is shown in how we treat others.

Prayer: Our Lord, search us to see if there are any false and deceitful ways in us. Help us to be honest. Amen.

The Rev. Dan Safarik recently retired as a full-time pastor at St. Luke Methodist Church in Lincoln and now serves part time at St. Mark’s UMC in Lincoln. Email him at debsafarik@gmail.com.

The Rev. Dan Safarik serves St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lincoln. Email him at dan@stlukelincoln.org

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