"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy." (James 3:17)
A hypocrite is someone who feigns high principles, who pretends to have admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings but behaves otherwise, from the Greek hupokritēs, which means "actor, pretender."
It is this perception that is dividing those within the church walls from those outside them, and both sides are guilty of intolerance, un-forgiveness and lack of giving grace. Whether Christian or un-Christian…. We are guilty of judging each other too harshly based on wrong perceptions that we have decided have become fact.
Those perceptions, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons write in their book UnChristian, have been reinforced and developed by Christians. "The truth," Kinnaman and Lyons say, "is that we have invited the hypocrite image." Christians are virtually indistinguishable from non-Christian or other religious movements in regards to sin. Kinnaman and Lyons write that we have given the world the wrong image of what Christianity truly is, "Many….non-Christians think that Christianity is just a big morality show, put on by people who don't even believe it themselves."
The church has preached this message for centuries, dictating to those who walk into its doors that you see an instant change, across the board, from the old dead self and the new alive self when you accept, truly accept, salvation's gift. That has been the message that has been taught in the hallowed halls of western Church over and over again, "Be like us and be without sin." It glosses over the love of Christ, glosses over the wrath of God and declares if you tithe, serve and speak Christian-zez; you are saved. First and foremost, the Church is telling those who walk into its lair, is that you avoid sinning…..that is the priority. The world hears that Christianity is all about not sinning and then see Christians fall…..and it isn't any wonder why they perceive the hypocritical attitude that has been fostered and coddled by the Church and its members.
Christianity isn't about 'pulling yourself up by your spiritual bootstraps' and walking this journey home without sin….for that is the road to destruction and foolish folly. We are imperfect, fallen and broken human beings…..we sometimes sin without even realizing it. As Tony Woodlief writes in his review of Kinnaman and Lyons' book, Hypocritical Christianity, "We strive for sinlessness out of love for God, yes, but we only love Him because He first loved us."
When we become a new creature in Christ, the old nature doesn't suddenly lose its hold upon us in every area and we walk from the Church steeples with a new character. God develops this; the broken and tarnished image into the new image that He already holds for us. But the Church teaches us to hide this battle between the new nature and the old…..one robbed of its power, living in the perception of its authority and the other authorized to rebuff the very things that break relationship with God but fighting against our own perception of its lack of power. It is through the Spirit, which indwells in us from the moment of salvation, that brings this battle to the forefront and shows the gradual (sometimes overnight, sometimes a lifetime) overcoming of the old, dead nature by the new, eternal nature empower and authorized by God's own Son, Christ Jesus.
"The beginning of the solution," Kinnaman and Lyons write, "is for Christians to be more transparent about our own sins…..with humility." If we were not fallen human beings, we would not need a Savior and the upcoming celebration of the Easter celebration wouldn't be part of the joy of being part of the family of God. The number one pursuit of Christians isn't "lifestyle….being good and not sinning" because we ourselves are incapable of being good and walking in the righteous perfection that Jesus did……unless we are totally surrendered and even then, it is not by our power that we walk a blameless life. God carries the ability and the authority to keep us from sinning…..totally and completely not sinning…..and it is up to us to foster and maintain that relationship so that such things are alive and empowered in our lives.
This is only possible through the correct understanding of sin, speaking in the sermons at our congregations and in our own lives of its conception and deception, and spelling out in life and speech what Christianity truly is. "I am a sinner like you," Tony Woodlief concludes his article, "and here is why I strive to be better tomorrow than I am today, and why I have hope regardless of whether I succeed or fail."
Because I seek to be closer to God and Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit to struggle on the battlegrounds of the mind to overcome the illusionary power of the old self with the real, authoritive and empowered new eternal self, until that day when He comes again.
There are hypocrites in and outside of the Christian family…..both pitted against each other for slights of the past and a delusionary perception of the future……
How do we know whether we are being hypocritical or faithful?
On the basis of what Jesus taught and how He lived…..with a hearty dose of compassionate grace for the imperfection we were born into.
We all will make mistakes and fall, it is those who truly have a relationship with God that will come down and help us back up in tender love for us.
Absent of judgmental pride, vacant of moral superiority.
"For all have fallen short of the Glory of God………"
I have been guilty of hypocritical Christianity……..but God is teaching me what true Christianity is…..
hope, love and grace for imperfect people……..
Something to think about this Easter celebration……..