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Christians and Self-Righteousness

October 10, 2012

Sadly, Christians can appear self-righteous, smug, and hypocritical to the unsaved world. This is hardly the way to attract converts, let alone live out our faith.

We need not compromise Christian beliefs to convey them in a loving manner to those unfamiliar with Christianity or with backgrounds we consider less “pristine” than our own. None of us is without sin.


Christ, Himself, hated hypocrisy and self-righteousness. He repeatedly criticized the Pharisees for these faults:

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, ‘Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:  “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” ’ ”(Mark 7: 5-6).

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted’ ” (Luke 18: 9-14).

In a State of Sin

Christians, of all people, should be conscious of their sin and inadequacy. We, ourselves, were on the road to death, destruction, and damnation. Under the law, every last one of us deserved execution for our sins.

Saved by Faith

We were not saved by our pious demeanor, a sterling character, or some redeeming act of our own. The opposite is true. We were saved by Christ’s death on the cross in our place. We contributed nothing of value toward that sacrifice. This is what is meant by being saved through faith alone.

“…[K]nowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus…for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Gal 2: 16).

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast(Eph. 2: 8-9).

“…[N]ot by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit…” (Titus 3: 5).

Compassion v. Self-Righteousness

If there is a single quality that should distinguish Christians it is compassion. Christians are expressly commanded to love their neighbor. Such love is inconsistent with self-righteousness.

Jesus answered him… ‘ “[Y]ou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these’ ” (Mark 12: 29-31).

In practical terms:

We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  And this commandment we have from Him:   that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4: 19-21).

The self-righteous who call themselves Christian should re-examine their attitudes and behavior toward others. The Lord, Himself, warned:

“ ‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”  And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you…” ’ ” (Matt. 7: 21-23).

Perfection in the Person of Jesus Christ

Even having been saved – having accepted Jesus into our lives and hearts – Christians continue to sin. The Person we can hold up as a model to others is Jesus Christ. He was and is the true exemplar of moral perfection.

Self-righteousness on the part of any individual Christian – who is by nature a sinful and flawed human being – must be distinguished from the righteousness imputed to Christians by the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Salvation is open to all who seek the Lord and repent their sins. Perfection is not required for fellowship.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  http://www.avoicereclaimed

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