Strive for holiness, but don’t be self-righteous about it

Columnist Chris Brekke says we should try genuinely to be faithful followers of our faith. And follow the rules, even if you don't like them.

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Jews and Muslims don’t recognize Jesus as the Savior. Protestants don’t recognize the Pope as infallible. Baptists don’t recognize each other in the liquor store.


The last phrase is only funny if you know that Baptists are teetotalers, i.e., they aren’t supposed to drink alcohol. So if they do, it’s on the QT and not to be known by others. If a fellow Baptist is seen in the liquor store, you keep your head down and look away.


So, aren’t there a whole slew of things that Christians are officially opposed to, but do anyway?


The Lutheran Church is opposed to gambling, but many Lutherans gamble. I have heard that Minnesota, a quite Lutheran state, is like the third-biggest gambling state.

The Catholic Church is opposed to eating meat on Friday, but many Catholics do anyway.

Christians of all stripes are opposed to cursing, to skipping church, to disrespecting parents, to divorce, to cheating on taxes, to lying and gossiping, to greed, and on and on.

Yet I trust that I’m not shocking you to tell you that many Christians do these things.

Some don’t agree with the prohibition, so they excuse themselves that way. If they were in charge of their religion, they would do away with the moral rules they don't like.

Some Christians mostly agree with their faith's rules, but yet don’t keep them. They wouldn’t want to be recognized and singled out as a sinner on that score by their fellow believers. We humans don't want to be busted as obvious hypocrites.

What do we do with this gap between beliefs and behaviors?

If we do not “walk the talk,” then what? It does make us hypocrites, right? Or at least weak Church members.


I’d say we should try genuinely to be faithful followers of our faith. We need that. And the world needs to see that from us.

We advance the cause of Christ when we practice what we preach. Aim high. Grow in obedience.

I don't mean be a legalist and a record-keeper on all manner of lesser rules, but we should make a good-faith effort to fly right.

Secondly, we know that Christianity is not a “good works” religion, a legalistic society built on rules. Jesus sure didn’t like that spirit in the Pharisees.

So we are gracious with others and not condemning.

None of us are sinless. Lean on Christ, for both his strength and his grace. St. Paul writes: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4:1).

Make a good-faith effort to be recognizable as a follower of Jesus. Strive for holiness; but don’t be phony or self-righteous about it. Keep the focus on the goodness of Christ because ours just isn’t that good.

Thanks for trying.


Chris Brekke is a retired pastor who served Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rochester for 13 years and Trinity Lutheran in West Concord for 10. He and his wife live in Roseville, Minn., where he keeps busy with volunteering, church and family.

"From the Pulpit" features reflections from area religious leaders. To contribute, email us at with "From the Pulpit" in the subject line.

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