“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” – Matthew 23:27-28 (NKJV)
I was born and reared in a large town in the South. Headquarters to some denominations, it has hundreds of churches and is regionally famous for being a “Christian” town – the largest in a wet county that has no bars or clubs. People just buy alcohol at local grocery stores and restaurants.
Yet this “Christian” town has long had a corrupt government and police force. They’ve hidden crimes only the FBI can unravel. The chief of police resigned this past weekend, having served the city for 10 years. In one surveillance video, he was caught spending time with a female city employee in a difficult situation, possibly adultery, on city-owned property. In another video, he was caught drinking and driving.
This is the latest scandal to smear the chief’s tenure. A few years ago, he lied about members of his force using illegal drugs, having sex with minors, playing Russian roulette, drinking, falsifying documents, sexually assaulting inmates, and running from other law enforcement agencies. The mayor defended him. This chief also plagiarized and then lied about a newspaper article, refused to let cops make arrests on domestic calls, and gave his nephew – a minor – a slap on the wrist for vandalism. Yet he’ll retire and get his pension, at taxpayer expense.
I didn’t know such things could happen in a “Christian” town. Yet few residents I talked with considered this event newsworthy. Others wondered why his and the woman’s names were made public. Some people even offered him cheap grace – no repentance required.
Why is this event newsworthy? “Chief of police” is a public office, a city appointment. Residents pay his salary through taxes. They need to know that he has the integrity to perform his duties. Unlike ordinary residents, people who hold public office must sign a contract that contains an ethics clause, including no sexual misconduct. Those who violate their contract are fired unless they choose to resign. Adultery, which is grounds for divorce, is a crime in some states. Besides, would an adulterer be bothered by policemen guilty of statutory rape? I don’t think so.
What hurts me more than the police chief’s resignation, which I applaud, is the fact that few people in this “Christian” town seem to care. No one mentioned it at church yesterday. Instead, they talked about football, sang Christmas songs, and preached on the love of Jesus as though nothing had happened. Like the Pharisees, many high-ranking religious people in this “Christian” town seem righteous on the outside. Inwardly, however, they’re full of “dead men’s bones” – hypocrisy and lawlessness. This lawlessness is leaking out through the government and police. What Jesus said of Sardis is true of this place: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1).
Hypocritical and lawless individuals produce hypocritical and lawless societies, so the entire South may be just like this town. Guilty of racism on a massive scale, she killed, persecuted, and defrauded both Native Americans and blacks. The Trail of Tears (1838-39), the Civil War (1861-65), and the Civil Rights Movement (1954-69) could have been prevented if the “Christian” South had read her Bible right. Instead, she drove desperate people to take desperate measures.
Yet many people in the South have the audacity to point a finger at Detroit, the largest city in Michigan. This city endured costly race riots in 1943 and 1967. White people have been leaving in droves ever since, with blacks and Arab Muslims filling the vacuum. At its height in 1950, the population was 1.8 million. Now it’s about 713,000. Detroit’s inner city is falling apart physically and financially. She was recently forced to declare bankruptcy, the largest in American history.
Unlike many Southern cities, Detroit doesn’t whitewash her spiritual tomb. She’s like the woman whom the Pharisees caught in adultery. The sins of Detroit are known and her faults many, so “successful” America likes to point a finger at her. They don’t know that they’re just like Detroit spiritually. Underneath the beautiful veneer, they’re full of “dead men’s bones.”
Detroit desperately needs Jesus Christ. She needs spirit-filled believers living, working, and praying in the inner city. I hope that Jesus tells the South, “Woe unto you!” I also hope he tells Detroit, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11, NKJV).