The Bible is filled with examples of people who were very “spiritual” and at the same time very mean.
You can start all the way back at the beginning.
Think about Adam’s boy, Cain.
It’d probably be too much to say Cain was a very religious person because we don’t know that. We can say though that the first time we meet him he is ‘worshiping.’ Genesis 4 tells us that Cain became very angry and that he became angry, this is what is so fascinating, after doing what? Presenting his offering to God.
Immediately after supposedly going to worship and honor God Cain becomes infuriated with his brother…so infuriated that he actually takes him out to a field and murders him.
Fast forward thousands of years to the reign of King Saul.
Now again, Saul is not someone we would normally consider very spiritual, but if you flip over to 1 Samuel 10:24, we do find Samuel saying that he was the man God had chosen to lead his people, and reading the rest of the story we discover throughout Saul’s life he received godly counsel from great men of God, in fact he heard the Word of the Lord on several occasions, and on some occasions it appears Saul did at least pretend to be about what God wanted.
Yet in spite of all those privileges by the end of his life he was a man literally consumed by rage, bitterness and hatred.
Perhaps a better example would be the Israelites themselves.
If we just keep moving on in our Bibles to Isaiah 1, we find the Israelites are very spiritual. They, verse 11, are multiplying sacrifices, verse 13 are observing all sorts of solemn assemblies, going through the motions of presenting their offerings before God, verse 14, celebrating the festivals God had commanded, and even verse 15, spreading out their hands in prayer; yet at the same time, verse 21 God says many of them are murderers, and verse 23 they don’t defend the orphan and they don’t look out for the helpless widow.
Jesus tells a story about people like that in Luke 10.
He talks about a priest and a Levite who just walked by a man who had been beaten and left by the side of the road. The terms priest and Levite don’t mean much to us, but Jesus is talking about very religious people. He’s talking about people who knew their Scriptures, knew what it said about loving their neighbor, men who were respected and admired by others for their spirituality, and yet at the same time, men who when someone in desperate need was staring them right in the face, completely failed to show him love.
In Luke 18 Jesus tells another story about a religious man.
The scene for this story is actually the temple. We come upon a religious man in the temple supposedly worshiping God. He’s actually praying. And what’s he doing as he prays? Lambasting and despising someone else who came to worship. Coming before God, pretending like he’s praying, hating his neighbor.
How about Matthew 25?
I’m bombarding you with these Scriptures for a reason. I want you to be overwhelmed with what a problem this is. Jesus, beginning in verse 31 is talking about judgment day. He’s describing how he’s going to separate and distinguish between people on that day, the picture being like a shepherd separating the sheep from the goats. Now the thing about this passage, and I just want to focus on the goats for a minute, look down at 44, they are surprised. Jesus condemns them and they say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you…” Here they are calling Jesus Lord so they are religious people who are surprised that they are being condemned and yet Jesus still condemns them why? Ultimately here it is their failure to truly obey his command to love.
If you are still tracking with me, think about Romans 14.
Paul’s talking in this chapter to Christians who are concerned about doing what is right. In fact, they have developed deep heartfelt convictions about right and wrong. They just disagree. And what’s happening here is that their convictions about right and wrong are turning into something ugly, because if you look at verse 10, we find that they are judging their brother and they are going so far as to regard their brother with contempt.
James, James 2.
James is talking about a group of believers gathering together to worship God. In verse 2 he says, “For if a man comes into your assembly…” Assembly indicating that here a group of professing Christians had gathered together most likely for a worship service. And yet even though they came together to worship God like this, look what they were doing, they were showing favoritism, verse 4, they “made distinctions among themselves, and became judges with evil motives.” Specifically verse 9, they were showing partiality and as a result were convicted by the law as transgressors. They were verse 8, failing to love their neighbor as themselves.
1 John 3:17. John is writing to professing Christians and says “whoever has the world’s good and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
And then I think John clinches the case I’m trying to make here, in 1 John 5:20 where says “If someone says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother he is a liar…” As far as I can tell John is describing something he expects will actually happen. This is not something far removed from reality. There are going to be people who stand up and say that they love God and yet who at the same time hate their brother.
We all know it’s important to be a loving person.
But are we?
That’s the question.
We aren’t loving simply because we know what the Bible says about love.
We have to be careful we don’t fool ourselves into thinking that we are loving just because we can quote 1 Corinthians 13 or because we know the meaning of the word agape. It’s good to know what the Bible says about love – how we can be loving if we don’t? We just have to realize that if we’re not acting on what we know, we’re completely missing the point. We just have to realize that sometimes people use what they know about love as a mask to disguise the fact that in actuality they are not.
I think this is a big problem, and because of that I want us to look a little more closely at it together tomorrow…what are some of the ways spiritual people typically fail to show love?