The Road to Happiness Goes through the Graveyard

Have you ever known someone who was terribly messed up, but likeable? You blush at their language and their past, but feel strangely relaxed around them because you have nothing to prove. You set the bad person next to some church people who seem to have the gift of criticism and you might wish for a few more evil people in your church.

There is a reason for this. We are proud of our religious accomplishments. We look so good before the dark backdrop of the tattooed and the uncatechized.

It is very hard to be good, but you are deceived if you think that good just means you have to be better than those around you. In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis says that you—the compliant child who wishes you could be bad—are, “a far greater pest to anyone who has to live with you than you would have been if you had remained frankly selfish.”

That is why there is little difference between the vile criminal who feeds on sinful pleasures and the church guy who feeds on religious pleasures. The reason the outwardly vile man seems happier is that he is living completely for what he wants. The religious guy is in a battle to prove he can achieve what his heart really does not want to do. He is like the compliant child who takes her nasty medicine because she likes to look better than her rebellious brother. She hates it too, but she loves the applause slightly more than she hates the medicine.

Maybe the reason we don’t like hypocrites is that we have all learned to play the game. Sometimes in our honest moments we wonder how much fun it would be to just hang it up. But of course the answer is not for all of us to start living consistent lives of fleshly indulgence. The answer is that we need to die. The words of Jesus in Luke 9:23-24 bring us to see that He is not out to improve us but to remake us in His image.

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