Monday, August 20, 2007

Wearing masks

I was just over at the Hippie Conservative's site; where he wrote an interesting post about -- what he calls -- the "philosophy of hypocrisy". In this post, he basically calls into question exactly what hypocrisy is. As I read his post and my subsequent response, it got me to thinking about how the extent to which hypocrisy resonates in the church.

As I mentioned on HC's site, the term hypocrite is taken from Greek word hypokrites, which means a person who plays a part. Essentially, a hypocrite is an actor. Though that particular definition sounds innocent enough, I can't think of too many words in the English language that so negatively describe a Christian. It makes perfect sense. If you look beneath the surface, being accused of playing the role of a Christian can be pretty insulting. As insulting, perhaps, as laying down a series of relentless "Yo Momma" jokes.

Invariably, whenever I hear the words "hypocrite" and church used together in the same sentence my mind immediately shifts to people whom I consider hypocritical. Whether it's Henry Lyons and his scandals with the NBC, Jesse Jackson and his girlfriend, or even some of the actions at Mt Calvary MBC, I'm often quick to pull out all the punches to go after them. I think we all do at one point or another. But what I -- and most people who judge harshly -- fail to do is to ask God to scan our own hearts to find the things that make us vile. It becomes too easy and too convenient to be critical of others without first looking at ourselves. Not good for followers of Christ. Not good at all.

If you think about it, it was when Jesus was attacking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees that He was usually the most aggressive. He rebuked hypocrites even more than prostitutes, tax collectors and thieves. I suspect that it has to do with the fact that at least the "sinful" folks could admit it. Oppositely, Pharisees enjoyed basking in their self-professed virtue, being the center of attention and being widely recognized for their intelligence, their giving and their good works. They were the oily-haired 'ministers' on the TBN who make it a point to show how well off they were. In today's circles, the church has followed many of the same practices for which the Pharisees were rebuked. You have 'pious', self-righteous folks in church who are quick to call out somebody else's shortcomings and their 'immoral' lifestyles, while they actively engage in gossip, backbiting, selfishness and bigotry. All the while, the unchurched among us sit back and look at our hypocrisy in amazement and cynicism; asking themselves why in the world they would want to join that. Our message gets lost in the role we play.

As I've mentioned before, I believe that we are, in fact, entitled to be critical of other people's actions. But too often, there's a gross misinterpretation of Matthew 7:1; which states "Judge not, lest ye be judged." People read that verse and run a marathon with it; neglecting to read all of the subsequent passages. Many folks are quick to point out other people's shortcomings while; by pretense; put themselves above sin. That's where our acts of judgment become problematic. What people always seem to miss is that before we can judge other people we must first judge ourselves by acknowledging our sins and God's ability to expose us to His Truth. When we fail to do that, Jesus is quick to call us out on our hypocrisy (Matt 7:5).

I can imagine how cool it would be to win an Academy Award. I just wouldn't want to win one for playing the role of a loving Christian.

- ACL

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Saved sinner said...

Another good post sir. Great words to take to heart.

KC said...

Many of the people I've seen and met in my Christian walk have rejected everything about the church including God because of some bad experiences with other so-called Christians. People in our churches today get so obsessed about each others weaknesses that they fail to see their own. And it's the unchurched and the unsaved who suffer.

Joanne said...

If you've ever followed the practices of Pharisees and the Sadducees, you'd know that they were separtists who like to gather within their own ranks and form their own factions. That's where the church often makes its mistake. How can we reasonably expect to reach out to the world when we can't even get out of our own cliques at the church?

Andre said...

@ Saved: Thanks Rob!

@ KC: "People in our churches today get so obsessed about each others weaknesses that they fail to see their own. And it's the unchurched and the unsaved who suffer."

Well put.

@ Joanne: "If you've ever followed the practices of Pharisees and the Sadducees, you'd know that they were separtists who like to gather within their own ranks and form their own factions."

Sort of. Pharisees were the group who made it a point to separate from the rest of the world. Sadducees were more like conformists to the worldview. They often used their education and 'sophistication' to fully embrace incongruent cultures; like those in Rome. They were so concerned about their standing in the world that they'd go against Jesus' teachings for validation. Pharisees on the other hand would embrace the Judaic Law SO MUCH that withdraw themselves COMPLETELY from the world. As we learned through Jesus' ministry, both groups were off-base. But I get your point.

Andre said...

I'm sorry Joanne. To address your other point (I completely forgot!):

"How can we reasonably expect to reach out to the world when we can't even get out of our own cliques at the church?"

Right on the money. I've said before, cliques aren't bad. I mean, it's just a group of close friends and acquaintances. But when it gets to the point where you systematically leave out or marginalized people IN THE CHURCH (especially because of their shortcomings), you have to ask yourself if your ground really IS Christ-centered.

Joanne said...

Andre, thanks for the clarification. I actually knew that, but I got a head of myself while I was making my comments. I couldn't make corrections to my statement once I sent it. Silly me. :)

KC, I agree with everything you said about how we Christians can make experiences bad for unbelievers. But I tend to think that many unbelievers use that as a smoke screen for the real issues they have. For example, people experience obnoxious and rude folks at work. That doesn't mean they stop going. But I understand your ultimate point.

Like I said before, we need to step out of our comfort zones and familiar faces to open up to others. That way they can't use the "hypocritical Christians" excuse anymore.

Andre said...

Hi Joanne,

" But I tend to think that many unbelievers use that as a smoke screen for the real issues they have. For example, people experience obnoxious and rude folks at work. That doesn't mean they stop going."

That's actually a pretty good point that I must admit I really didn't think about. One thing however: I'm not sure if unbelievers or babies in Christ are mature enough in the faith to look beyond the "obnoxious and rude" folks to experience God's glory. I certainly don't want to write them off, but I'd be a fool not to think that sometimes people don't get in the way.

I consider myself pretty strong in the faith (though there's TONS of room for improvement). Yet, some church folks got on my LAST NERVE at Mt. Calvary. Frankly, I'm happy I don't have to be around them any more. Imagine how easy it will be for a person who doesn't have the connectivity to Christ and His Church to get turned off.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Great post. I think the verse that you may be refering to is "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (NASB ©1995)

HeiressChild said...

for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. i think sometimes person forget that no people is perfect, not even the christian. i might even add, "especially the christian" because christians seem to be more under the watchful eyes of others.

sometimes people have hypocritical actions, but once brought to light, they put that action into check. then there are those that are just "straight up" hypocrites, meaning that's their nature, so to speak, like the pharisees. to me, there's a difference between the two, though the action is the same. it's how the hypocrisy is handled that makes a difference.

i do agree that the unsaved sometimes stay away because of what's going on in the church, but i tell people it's Jesus we're following, not people. people will always fail within themselves and fail with others, but Jesus is the perfect one. So we follow Him. salvation is about our life now, but it's mainly about our after-life, so we can have eternal life. once knowing that, people have to be careful that they don't let the excuse of christians being hypocrites keep them away from their salvation.

the devil is the accuser of the brethren. that's his job to accuse and point fingers, and he's doing a good job of it too. i know the deeds of some have been brought to light thru the media, but we have to pray for them. they're automatic targets just being christian because people are expecting them as christians to be "perfect," plus the fact that they're in the "spotlight" makes them an open target. i know there will always be the wolves, the schemers, the pharisees/hypocrites, but the wheat and tares grow together, and God will do the separating.

we are admonished to walk a certain way thru the Word of God, and when we don't, God deals with us. how He deals with us just depends on how obedient we are to take heed to the Word.

Andre said...

@ LGS: Sorry for the late reply, my friend. I've been pretty busy lately.

You're correct in identifying the passage in Matthew; chapter 7. It's one of the most important yet frequently misused passages in the whole Bible.

@ Sylvia: "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

Hear, hear. If I could go one day without sinning, I'd kill myself to protect my streak. But then I'd still be sinning if I did that!

"sometimes people have hypocritical actions, but once brought to light, they put that action into check. then there are those that are just "straight up" hypocrites, meaning that's their nature, so to speak, like the pharisees."

I see what you mean. I can also see a difference between wrongdoers who profess their sins versus those who are trapped in their sins or too stubborn to see them.

"i do agree that the unsaved sometimes stay away because of what's going on in the church, but i tell people it's Jesus we're following, not people."

I agree with that to an extent. Yes, we should remind people that they're following the life, teachings, and principles of Jesus. But they're living on Earth with us. We're the ones who mess it up for some people. It's the idea of being around us that turns people off completely. A sad reality to be sure.

"i know the deeds of some have been brought to light thru the media, but we have to pray for them. they're automatic targets just being christian because people are expecting them as christians to be "perfect," plus the fact that they're in the "spotlight" makes them an open target."

I get this. But sometimes I think Christians can have the spotlight turned on them for doing good things just as much as we can for doing bad things.

"we are admonished to walk a certain way thru the Word of God, and when we don't, God deals with us. how He deals with us just depends on how obedient we are to take heed to the Word."

Beautifully put. Thanks!

Joslyn said...

Well put, Heiress!