You're a Hypocrite

“Church world” is a funny place. We Christians have definitely created our own little culture within culture over the last 2,000 years. I’m a fan of Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like because, as someone who has grown up in church and is a seventh-generation Christian, I know his satire to be oh-so-true. Sometimes in “church world,” we say and do things totally opposite of culture. But at other times, we act just like culture, even to an alarming, unhealthy extreme. Lately, I’ve noticed a nasty habit in myself, as well as others, and I’d like to talk about it.

But before I do, I want to be clear that this problem afflicts me as much or more than anyone else. I want that clearly understood because, at the end of this article, you might be tempted to fling all I’ve said back in my face and say, “You’re no better.” And you’d be right. In fact, I’m agreeing with you right now.

Are you ready for the bombshell?

We really like to accuse people of being hypocrites.

In certain circles of “church world,” hypocrite is the abhorrent category no one wants to be in. Call us gossips or gluttons, arrogant or adulterers, legalists or liberals. Just don’t call us hypocrites. In prison, there are certain crimes that make you “cool,” and others that will get you killed. No one wants to go to prison convicted of child rape, and I imagine a Christian wants to be guilty of anything except hypocrisy.

Knowing that no one likes being labeled a hypocrite, it seems we toss the accusation around a little flippantly. Anytime there is the least bit of air noticed between expectation and reality, we label the person in question a hypocrite. If someone complains about something, yet seems to be guilty of what they complain about, they must be a hypocrite.

In more recent weeks, I’ve noticed that I use “hypocrite” as my last line of defense when I feel like I’ve lost the argument, but want to discredit the person I know has bested me. If someone has convicted me of some sin, I can stroke my bruised ego by labeling the person a hypocrite. If they are blind to their own faults, they are blind to mine also, and thus don’t know what they’re talking about. A hypocrite is anyone with the gumption to tell me I’m wrong.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, praise God. Stop reading now and click back over to Facebook or Twitter or wherever this session of web surfing will take you.

But I think some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve read articles and heard preachers and been on the wrong end of confrontations that made your face flush red, your blood pressure spike, and your conscience go on the fritz. You know the article/preacher/friend confronting you was right about your behavior. You had been doing something you shouldn’t, and now it was time to come to Jesus. But wait…

The author of the article, the preacher in the pulpit, or the friend before you was a hypocrite, so what do they know? They don’t live up to their own standard, so why should I listen to home? Are they any better? These are the excuses we make that keep us from ever changing more into the likeness of Jesus. We can’t endure the thought that God would use imperfect people to correct us.

As I slowly mature in my understanding of Jesus’ teachings, I’ve come to understand that all Jesus said about hypocrisy was directed at me and no one else. I must guard against my becoming a hypocrite; I can’t speak for anyone else. Therefore, when I’m corrected, it’s the devil who wants me to dismiss what is said as coming from the mouth of a hypocrite.

Jesus? He sometimes uses misshapen vessels of dishonor to communicate the most important truths. Maybe if you and I were more passionate about another h-word, humility, we’d have room to see that.

But by always bandying around the salacious allegation of “hypocrite,” it’s only a matter of time before we become one ourselves.

Father, be patient and faithful as you shape us more into the likeness of Jesus. Help us to be authentic followers, instead of actors or hypocrites. More importantly, help us not to accuse someone of hypocrisy simply because they are shining a light on the sin in our hearts. Help us to be humble and penitent, lest we too become the very thing we despise. In Jesus' name.

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