When I tell people I have a list of challenging personal questions about my faith and lifestyle that a friend asks me regularly, the responses vary from ‘that’s cult-y’ to ‘what a good idea’. Honestly, I’ve swung back and forth in my opinion of discipleship questions over the years.
Last Monday morning, though, as I read Matthew 23, it reminded me of a core reason genuinely challenging, honest accountability is so important, especially for my generation:
“Woe to you...you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones 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” (vs 27-28: read verses 13-32 for the full effect!)
Avoiding hypocrisy and desiring integrity are two of the main reasons I am committed to discipleship questions with my friend. The reality is, what’s going on in my head and in my life all too often does not match up to the stories I tell of what it means to be a Christian. It is all too easy to become that white-washed tomb - all Christian-looking on the outside but inside full of darkness and shadows.
Integrity is so important to my generation. It has come full-on into the public spotlight in recent years, with criticisms of broken promises in politics and unseen abuses of power and influence dominating the media. Never has it been more important for us to take responsibility for our hidden lifestyles, to admit to the pull of comfort, laziness, pride and greed and to walk decidedly away from them. There is no shame in accepting that it is often hard to live out what we preach. The temptations are many, even from within ourselves. There will be plenty of (valid) criticism, though, if are not diligent in looking to do so.
Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans, admits that “what I want to do I do not do, and what I hate I do” (Rom 7:15) - a sentiment we can all identify with, I’m sure. At the same time, God promises the Holy Spirit to help our lives be ruled not by the stuff we want to avoid but by ‘life and peace’ (Rom 8:6). It’s all too easy to believe one thing and live another. Integrity is hard-won - we are human after all - but it is something I believe in passionately. I don’t want to be facile, hypocritical or false. I don’t want to be found believing something yet making no effort to live that out in my own life.
The questions Ellie asks me are hugely varied, but they all come back to the same core - ‘you know that thing you believe in, that you said you want to be doing/not doing in your life...how’s that going?’
The freedom in honesty, confession and a space to lay everything down is remarkable. I know that I need this, human as I am, to help me live the life I want to lead. My prayer is that it will lead to me living an honest life of integrity. That potential hypocrisy can be rooted out; that where I’m lazy I’ll be challenged to press on; and that rather than being a white-washed tomb, I’ll be one who is becoming, through honesty, freedom and grace, genuinely more like Jesus every day.