This morning my wife and I had a heated disagreement on the way to a church service. It continued right into the parking lot, whereupon she said, "What's the point of our showing up today? Playing the hypocrites. Both of us steamed up as we are."

She was absolutely right. We drove home. Went to our neutral corners for a couple of hours. Got over things. Took our respective quiet devotional times. Found the key to repentance and reconciliation.

Earlier in the morning, strangely enough, my thoughts had gone to the workplace phenomenon, growing in frequency, and known as "presenteeism". Employees come to work sick. Coughing. In need of rest, medicine, change of pace, moments of reflection and self-assessment, prayer; all so that a normal process of healing might occur. But the employee is afraid to take the day off, miss the wages, miss possible opportunities, critical information in process. He or she reports to work, slinks by the token kiosk of hygienic handi-wipes in the front foyer, and the bulletin-board posters on how to wash hands and stifle a sneeze, and attempts to hide the symptoms and fake it for the day. He might even suspect that he can work his way through to health.

The result may be that others catch the contagion, or that the employee's condition worsens requiring several days off with greater inconvenience and loss.

Now transfer this situation to the church. There are problems. A struggle. A stumbling. A lousy attitude. Resentment. Sin. Unbelief. But instead of coming apart and resting a while, the parishioner puts in an appearance, smiles, sings, prays, shakes hands, gives the requisite good confession of faith. In essence plays the hypocrite without going humbly and alone to the Great Physician for correction and healing. This spiritual contagion may also spread. Its play-acting dishonesty may cripple a once open, honest and supportive assembly.

Doing one's duty or keeping up appearances in such a situation will miss the mark completely. What if some day even a person in leadership were to set the precedent by stepping back from the plate?


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