For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9
“Brian is a hypocrite. He believes his works will get him into heaven.”
Those words were spoken right in front of me the other day. What hurt more than anything was that it came from someone I care about deeply – a close relative from the same religious background.
I immediately pointed out the irony of such a statement from a person who clearly doesn’t rely solely on grace as a means of eternal life – something evident in both dress and action. Nevertheless, the words stung.
From the time that I started attending the United Churches of Christ, I have known that most of my family would not be supportive. Anything outside the religious beliefs of my childhood would be considered false teachings and deception. It is interesting that the denomination they expect me to be a part of is one that is the least accepting of who I am.
It is one thing to realize that your family doesn’t agree with your choice in denominations or have any confidence in you spiritually, but it’s something else entirely to hear those feelings voiced.
I’m also a little confused about the meaning behind the words that were spoken. What makes me a hypocrite? It is because this person doesn’t recognize my denomination as legitimate or because I’m openly homosexual and attending a Christian church?
I even looked up the definition of the word “hypocrite.”
hypocrite: a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he or she does not hold in order to conceal his or her real feelings or motives; professing feelings or virtues one does not have; deceptive, just pretending to be good.
The words have made me question myself. I want to check and double-check that I am not allowing myself to be deceived or manipulated by others. I want to make sure that the works I perform are for God’s glory and not my own. And I don’t want to simply appear righteous and good, I want to actually be those things – as much as humanly possible.
Regardless, I believe the verses in Ephesians are somewhat misunderstood. They do say we are saved by the grace of God and not our own works, but they don’t provide an excuse from doing good works. The rest of scripture is rife with commandments on how to live one’s life in order to achieve eternal life. I think a person who is truly a Christian will want to do the things that Christ taught, not just for a reward in the hereafter, but because they help us reap treasure while we’re here on earth.
I pray that God will help me to always be a true Christian – one that loves and forgives.