I couldn’t help but notice:
- No-one likes to talk about hypocrisy. And yet…
- Everyone loves to accuse others of hypocrisy.
Because, deep down, we are all comfortably convinced that hypocrisy only happens to other people.
In all honesty, I had intended to write this post yesterday. But when I went looking for a picture to accompany the writing, it just got so incredibly depressing that I changed gears and did a bunch of “writer’s admin” work instead (which needed doing anyway). So, a day later, here goes.
The New Testament word that is translated “hypocrite” is the Greek word hupokrites. The original definition still agrees with our 21st century usage of the word: “an actor under an assumed character (stage-player)”. To be a hypocrite, then and now, was to wear a mask, pretending to be someone that we are not.
Whenever considering a potentially thorny topic, it’s always best to start on a personal level:
1. Am I a hypocrite?
I am a follower of Jesus, but I’m not a very good one sometimes. I know I’ve grown spiritually to some degree, but I’ve still got a long way to go before spiritual maturity.
And in those immature, selfish, careless moments, my life and my faith don’t match the way they should (despite what I had hoped and intended). Does that make me a hypocrite? Because I’m not perfect yet?
Of course, if I am, the antidote is pretty straight-forward: repentance.
2. I’d like us to consider that there is actually a very significant difference between hypocrisy, and the average garden variety follower of Jesus.
The definition of hypocrite was to “wear a mask”; to pretend, to be a fraud. To claim a faith that one doesn’t really hold or follow.
Jesus actually expands the definition a bit when He described the symptoms of hypocrisy specifically: (1) hypocrites “love to be seen by others” (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18), (2) they invent weaselly excuses to disobey God while looking spiritual (Matthew 15:3-9), (3) they manipulate spiritual language to disguise their actual agenda (Matthew 22:15-21), (4) they might actually be preaching the truth, but they don’t follow it themselves (Matthew 23:1-12), and (5) they major on nit-picky rules (even legitimate ones) and miss the heartbeat of God behind them (Matthew 23:13-36).
3. Not all of the Christians in any local church fit Jesus’ description of hypocrisy.
Every faith community, even when at its best, is simply a gathering of ‘Sinners Anonymous’. We are all broken; a collection of shattered bits of the mirror that is supposed to reflect Jesus. However imperfectly, we are all “stumbling heaven-ward”.
Yes, there are some people in the church who may do things just to be noticed by others, or try to explain away what the Bible teaches in order to suit their lifestyle, and/or talk a good game but have no intention of actually living it.
On the other hand, the Bible also refers to the “righteous remnant”; those who remain faithful to Him even when a lot of people around them are not. A great example is when Elijah was moaning about being the only Israelite still faithful to God, and God responding that there were actually 7,000 others as well (1 Kings 19:18).
There are always “remnant” people in the church. Find them and hang out with them.
4. You must become the change you want to see.
This saying has suffered greatly from over-use in the past couple of decades, but this is an occasion where it really fits. The remedy for hypocrisy is not pointing fingers and judging the hypocrites (remember the parable of the Pharisee & the Tax-Collector?)
Even if you can’t find “remnant”-style people anywhere (look harder — they’re still around), you can choose to be one. And then others will find you. Two or three. Then more. It may begin to spread. It might even start to look like — dare I say it? — revival.