Sunday, September 12, 2021

Signalling Holiness

Sermon for the fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Do you find yourself being beaten by the good deeds of others?

You offer a man a slice of cake and he says loudly, "oh no! I'm a vegan. I wouldn't dream of hurting animals just for a slice of cake!"

You try to sell a poppy for Remembrance Sunday but the woman says loudly, "don't you have one in this colour? I only support all those in the services who suffer from discrimination from their superiors."

You try to donate some children's bibles to your local school but the head of the PTA says loudly, "we can't possibly take those! We can't be seen to have those. It would ruin our image as an inclusive school!"

It seems that all your good deeds just aren't that good, doesn't it?


What is most interesting is that the response to your attempts to do something nice are met with loud voices of refusal. Why are they so loud in saying, "no!" and then giving a reason which makes you seem like the bad guy? They could just either politely say, "thanks, but not for me!" or quietly dispose of what you give them into the nearest bin.

Why be so loud?

To be loud means that they want other people to hear. They don't just want you to hear their disapproval, they want others to hear that they disapprove. They have to be seen to be first in tackling an issue to gain the approval of others or to remain in the acceptable set. They are virtue signalling.


Virtue Signalling is exactly that. Those who practise virtue signalling proclaim their disapproval of what is socially unacceptable loudly to prove that they are good people.

Why do people need to prove themselves to be good? Why not just be good and let others deal with their issues?


What is interesting is that there is a lot of talk of "being good without God." Of course, you can do good things without believing in God - some atheists have been better philanthropists than many Christians! But nonetheless, what is inescapable is that if there is such a thing as goodness then there is God.

And God wants us to be good, not to be seen to be good.


If we seek first the approval of others then we simply will not find any happiness. There will always be some way in which we have to struggle to keep up with the whims of society. Further, we alienate ourselves from others who are not keeping up with the whims of society.

Being socially acceptable falls under the category of Mammon because it is a lust for the approval of others. It is an idol.

Christ bids us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. He bids us to be holy not be seen to be holy. We are to do good because we love God and to make real our faith in Him. Of course, we do need to be worried about the welfare of others - we are to love our neighbour - but we must do so in the context of the love of God, not in the glow of society's nod of approval.

Doing things to be socially acceptable does not help us address our sins within us, nor does it help us deal with our own insecurities about who we are. Only God can deal with our sins. Only God can tell us who we truly are. Only God can transform us into the people that He created us to be and who we long to be. 


Jesus bids us to be holy in ourselves. How quietly can you be holy?

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