Saturday, July 7, 2012

Hypocrisy: Where the Word & World Unite

            Have you noticed how when you start to put yourself out there openly in the world as a Christian, a lot of anti-religion comments and viewpoints start getting thrown your way; how the word hypocrite suddenly finds its way into the list of labels the world gives you?  All you have to do is start declaring God’s truth/word, whether it is verbally or on a social networking site such as facebook etc., and the bombardment begins.  What I find most ironic about this though, is not the fact that it happens, because we are warned in God’s word that it will (Jn 15:20 & 2 Ti 3:12), but rather that the majority of the content/their argument is directed toward attacking “religion” itself and/or so called “religious leaders.” 
The humor I find in this is two-fold.  First of all, I think they’d be surprised to learn that I, as a Christian, tend to agree with a lot of what they are criticizing religion for.  Secondly, and more importantly, I think they’d be completely shocked to learn that even Jesus himself preached and warned against the very same subjects.  All one has to do is turn to Mathew chapter 23 – a whole chapter that is devoted to this subject where Jesus, seven times says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!”  Of course, reading that would mean that they’d lose a large part of their argument against Christianity because what they’re often criticizing is also found in God’s word in this particular case.  Keeping that in mind, let’s take this a step further.
One of the other subjects routinely ridiculed by the world is the Bible/God’s word itself.  It is often stated that our claim of the Bible as being truth is a lie.  Hmmm… let’s put two and two together here.  Non-believers argue against “religion” and call the so called “religious leaders” hypocrites...God’s word warns against “religion” and calls the so called “religious leaders” hypocrites…but, according to the world, the Bible is a lie…read that sentence again.  Are you beginning to see the hypocrisy here?  Wouldn’t their very own argument then make them liars themselves?  Setting that thought aside for a minute, what about when the world calls you a hypocrite directly?  Ooooh, things just got a bit more serious here…or did it?
Often times the labels we are given by the world because we are Christians are unjust and, while I know that it’s hard sometimes not to react and take it personally, Jesus himself said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets before you.” – Mathew 5:11-12.  He also went on to say in verse 44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  But what if there really is truth to their accusations?  Are we Christians in fact hypocrites?  Again, I think the answer to that question might stun the world.
God’s word says, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” – 1 pet 2:1.  While it doesn’t call us hypocrites directly here, it does call for us to rid ourselves of it, and why would we be told to rid ourselves of something we didn’t in fact have in us?  You see, the thing is, God already knew that hypocrisy would be a stumbling block for Christians long before the world started pointing its accusing finger.  He knew and knows the thing that the world, for some reason, can’t seem to grasp – that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23.  There should be an emphasis on all here, meaning Christians included.  Yes, world, not only does God include us in the category of sinner, but we do too!
Somehow the world has gotten this misconstrued idea that we only use the word sinner when we are referring to non-Christians, when in fact, we have no problem claiming ourselves sinners and have actually already done just that. Again, what the world fails to see and understand here is that we didn’t come to the Lord by declaring we are perfect.  Every single true Christian came to Jesus by declaring ourselves sinners and admitting we needed a savior.  I’m not exactly sure how the word “sinner” translates into the word “perfect” in this world, but it’s obvious that there’s a serious lack of understanding in the world of the sacrifice Jesus made that day on the cross.  If we were perfect, he and the cross would not have been needed at all.  So, while the world may think they’re hurting us or arguing against our beliefs in Christianity by calling us hypocrites, they’re actually just stating the obvious and, in fact, confirming our need for Christianity; our need for a savior.    
I think that it has always been clear to Christians that the world has an issue with our hypocrisy, but why is it not clear to the world that we too take issue with it and, more importantly, that God’s word itself makes the same claims?  I believe that it’s in part due to the fact that the world doesn’t truly want to hear this message, but I also believe it’s because there are multiple ways we can and do respond because we tend to look to the world to get our cues, rather than seeking God’s word on the subject.  Let’s take a look at a few of the common responses.
“Practice what you preach.”  We’ve all heard it a million times from the world, have we not?  Oddly enough, not only is this good advice, but this is the response that we find in God’s word as well if you recall again 1 Pet 2:1.  God wanting us to rid ourselves of hypocrisy I can understand, but the world calling us to do so, isn’t that again hypocrisy itself?  Doesn’t the world claim that Christianity and what we stand for is wrong?  Well, if it’s wrong, like they say, then why would they want us to do better at it; especially when doing better at being a Christian is how God’s word instructs us to respond and God’s word, according to them, is supposed to be a lie?
Another response I commonly hear is an addition to the first: “Practice what you preach or stop preaching it at all.”  In other words, stop being Christian all together.  This initially sounds like the most logical approach for the world to want us to take in response to being called hypocrites.  Rather than ridding ourselves of hypocrisy, it would rid the world of the Christianity they are against all together.  Not only does this response go against God’s word, making it the wrong approach, but this “solution” too has its hypocrisy.  Did the world not call us hypocrites because we have done or said things that go against our beliefs/God’s word (we’ve sinned)?  So how would our going against our beliefs/God’s word even more, by not following them at all, solve our hypocrisy?  Wouldn’t that make us even bigger hypocrites?  Perhaps that is how some of the world wants us to respond so that they can say, “See, I told you so, you hypocrites!”
A third option, though one I’ve never actually heard said, I think is often hoped for by the world and, sadly, often chosen by all too many Christians: to ignore the claim of hypocrisy completely.  This is a dangerous response for two reasons.  First, it goes against God’s word.  Again, I remind you we are called to rid ourselves of hypocrisy.  Ignoring it means we do nothing.  Secondly, by not working on ridding ourselves of hypocrisy, we are continuing to give the world fuel for their fire; giving them an excuse as to why Christianity is wrong.  Ultimately, that is why I’m addressing this topic here and now – not only to open our eyes as Christians to the similiarities of the word and worlds stance on hypocrisy, but also so that we, like the Israelites that wondered in the wilderness for 40 yrs, will decide to continue to learn and change to be more like Christ until the day we’ve reached our promised land.
We are claimed as children of God.  We have never claimed to be perfect, but rather the opposite.  We have been claimed as children of God because we have claimed to be sinners and we have claimed Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.  Now, because of that, He is at work in us, but change doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s a life-long process.  So don’t ignore the call to rid yourself of hypocrisy and let the world have victory over your life.  Instead, immerse yourself in scripture and allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to mold you and grow you into the person God has predestined you to be.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” –Romans 12:2 

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