Last updated on April 20th, 2019 at 10:48 am
Who did Jesus die for? We are quick to answer, “He died for us; for me.” Very true. But why did He die for us? And how does our smugness mix with this?
Christ Died for the Ungodly
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
It’s a much-known fact that this stub of rock that we live on is a messed up place. How many poverty-stricken people did I pass today (or if I didn’t pass by anyone like that, how can we live in a world that so fully compartmentalizes the marginalized)? What’s the name of the latest medical scare or epidemic? Who are the people of the world who have threatened what is good and wholesome? When was the last time someone grabbed for water and it was discolored and unsatisfying?
It’s fast and easy for us to think about what is wrong in the world but we are, however, much slower to see what’s wrong in us.
Jesus died for you because he saw the little ball of sin and hopelessness that we all are, and thought it best for His glory, that you should know His name. We were saved not merely from a hell we barely understand but from a life of sin and fruitlessness. The stuff of humanity is awesome and carefully crafted, but it is also now corrupt and tainted.
When the Ungodly Turn to God
Christianity is (or should have to be) full, from beginning to end, of honest reflections, personal audits, and reality checks. It’s full of careful audits of our soul with the perfect mirror of scripture and the Holy Spirit; combing through the filth and things we keep secret, so that we may give them up and be what God is giving us through grace.
There are too many Christians who have no time for such audits of mind and soul. They know what they think they need to know. They are as good as they seem to need to be. Their sense of the world is just fine, as is. They are the smug Christians and never has there been such a bitter tasting collection of souls in all the earth.
There are a few different classes or guilds of these folks (inside of the name Christianity, but far from the heart of Christianity), and I have chosen to deal with them in the order that we normally think of them, and actually the opposite order which they appear in life.
The Smug Religious
There is a certain group of people that are written about in New Testament Literature who are universally recognized for their wrong-doing. How many sermons have you heard about not being a Pharisee? Probably close to the hundreds if you’ve been around the sanctuary a few times.
The Pharisees were the exact definition of a religious person that was pretentious, haughty, self-important, and simply smug. They followed the law to a T. Creating for themselves further laws, proved to themselves (and only themselves) that they were even more righteous then the others. And to showcase their point, they paraded (almost literally – Luke 20:46) their righteousness in front of the common folk, just so there was no doubt among the people.
These were a smug people.
This trap is an all too easy default for a longtime Christian. We settle into our routines, and look down from our ivory steeples and wonder how the simple people even function; since they should know they aren’t even close to being as holy as they are.
These are the people with the obvious legalisms and absurd restrictions, without reason; hurting themselves and the people in their lives.
It’s an easy rut to fall into, being one of these. Moreover, it is incredibly dangerous. When we believe that we have figured out this Jesus stuff, we inversely start to fail in it (this is actually one of my best lines in the whole blog; think about it for a while). Losing guard over our hearts is easy when we think we are the best guard. It’s this cocky attitude that lets you fall so quickly.
Much past the point of this article but worth noting is that this smugness is also the most repulsive thing to outsiders. No one wants to be around you, or want the Jesus you claim to serve. That’s an indictment in of itself.
The Smug Counter-religious
The smug counter–religious are the horrible sociological response to the first group (Pharisees). They see such a filthy religion and want nothing to do with it, except for maybe the benefits that it holds.
Heaven is great, but rightesouness isn’t what we are after. I’d like a guilt-free conscience, but I don’t mind living as a guilty sinner. Jesus is awesome to pray to in uncertain times, but I’m certain in myself the rest of the time.Christopher Morris
These counter-religious types are the cool, hipster, alternative Christians who have gotten so popular. In recent years it has become mainstream to deny sound doctrine, orthodoxy, and tradition. And it shows. They cuss and drink with the best of the world. Hardly any guilt exists spending money on the best clothes and guitars. Their liberal theologies are even so smug they drop the word doctrine and call it a day.
Almost without a doubt, their haughtiness sways just as hard, but in the other direction from the legalists. They are 100% certain that what the legalists deem important isn’t, and have in their place a new list of what is important (that’s the funny thing about relativism). And sometimes, even worse, they trade the transcendent views of God and Scripture for post-modern ramblings about how nothing means anything and how could you tell if it did!? This is, to be sure, a drift away from authentic Christianity.
They get away with this because they are able to point across the pew at the visible legalist and condemn them. They are able to ‘reason’ and ‘justify’ their position as they point at and differ from the one they are fleeing from.
So the warning is, just because you are different from a legalist, doesn’t exactly mean that you have it all together yourself.
The Smug Moral Agnostic (Irreligious)
This is the saddest group yet. Simply, the ‘Christian‘ moral agnostic sees these two groups and shrugs his shoulders. “How can any of us know?” And so they don’t seek to know what is right and what is wrong. They don’t care to understand just how to be a proper Christian.
Believing in an idea of something is good enough in place of believing and following Jesus. They have some essence of Christianity but don’t really care to pursue it.
The moral agnostic is just as evangelistic of their beliefs as the others, however, they are evangelistic in their limited belief. They look down on others who are so sure of all their beliefs. Because after all, how can we know for sure?
These are the civil religion Christians who operate a world that still favors some Christian characteristics. They go to church and say they are as Christian as American because there is systemic advantage behind the cultural phenomena. When half a thing gets hard, though, they are quick to blame churches, friends in the faith, and the establishment of religion.
Simply, they have never had a reason good enough to really look into the sacrificial teachings of Jesus.
No Room for Dormant, Smug Christians
It’s a sad church that we have created, the church that doesn’t fight to love each other and to understand each other. It is a sad Christian pursuit that we hold to, that doesn’t examine itself to see where we are at with our working out our salvation with fear and trembling.
The simple truth is that as Christians we have a light spreading
Why are Christians so smug?
Because they don’t get that the biggest project they are a part of is themselves.
And I should be the first to think