Just as a family can experience a full range of emotions, a church family can also experience many emotions. At times, it might be all joyful Hallelujahs and Praise to the Lord. At other times, it might be a lot of frustration and pain.
The topic of this blog post: Hypocrisy. Christians have been hurt by hypocrisy (amongst other types of sins). I didn’t realize how detrimental and serious hypocrisy was. Later, when I was on the receiving end, I realized what hypocrisy can do to others and to ourselves.
Hypocrisy is a deceptive and sinister type of sin. It can be hidden and camouflaged… hidden behind religious talk, good deeds, spiritual acts of kindness (Luke 12:1). Sometimes unaware, we Christians fall for it and even turn a blind eye to it.
Who might be victims and perpetrators of hypocrisy? Ordinary people, including Christian leaders: priests/pastors, pastors spouses, deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, council/board members. Religious leaders in Jesus’ days fell for it too, including Barnabas (Galatians 2:13).
It includes people inside the Church and also outside the Church. It happens within greater society and also in sub-cultures.
It is practiced everywhere… by almost everyone at some point in their life. By politicians…by Moms and Dads…aunts and uncles, by business people, by your friendly local cashier at the grocery checkout, and yes, maybe even by your local cafe barista.
In others words: by anyone you can think of. “Even by myself?” you might say?
Sad. When we are bound by hypocrisy, it’s hard to recognize our own hypocrisy. We are numbed by our own self-deception and our deception upon others.
It seems hopeless especially when hypocrites never get called on it.
There is a powerful technique that successful hypocrites use. Fear and intimidation.
Thus, hypocrisy gets further perpetuated. We hide behind a veil of moralism but still feel guilty.
I have seen it in others. I have wanted to expose it. I have struggled with it myself.
It’s all an act. We fear that someone might “spill the beans.” There’s fear… fear that there will never be genuine forgiveness if we confess our faults, weakness and mistakes.
And apologize? “Why should I apologize when I can just cover it up with a few falsehoods? It’s safer, cleaner and simpler to just cover it up. Nobody needs to know.”
We would rather continue hiding behind our lies. One lie covers up another lie — one stacked upon another. We are so blinded by our own hypocrisy of lies our consciences can become seared that we no longer feel guilty (1 Tim. 4:2).
Peter puts it in the same category as malice, deceit, envy and slander (1 Peter 2:1). So yes, it’s a very serious matter.
Sad when we’ve been so cold for so long that it no longer matters. Then we rationalize it. “If it doesn’t matter to me, why should it matter to the next person? They might not even be aware of my hypocrisy anyway. So who cares?”
Paul said, “Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9 HCSB). When we heap our hypocrisy upon others, it shows we don’t love them.
It’s like when you accidentally shake hands with someone but have mistakenly or innocently forgotten about your flu or cold? You feel guilty about spreading your germs because you didn’t confess. Later, they get sick. Your guilt intensifies. By then it’s too late.
I didn’t recognize my own hypocrisy. I saw hypocrisy in everyone else except for the hypocrisy within myself.
God knows there are many more hypocrites in Christendom. Probably a lot more than I had thought. It’s one of the symptoms of our sickness… and it’s in the Church. Yes, even in my own church, and it might very well be in your local congregation or parish too.
We buy into a false belief. “If I act like a saint, God will approve of me. God might even close a blind eye to my false pretenses, self-deception and deception of others.” Why? “Since God is love, and I love Jesus, everyone ought to love me too.” We vainly take God’s love for granted and refuse to truly love the other.
It’s an utter perversion of the heart. Master-minded by our false pretenses schemed in darkness. It strikes a chord at the level of evil matched only by Lucifer. Sounds evil enough, doesn’t it?
We subconsciously justify it when we put ourselves on a higher plane above others. “I can do it because I’m better than the other person. I’m smarter, more beautiful, more deserving, or more righteous than that person.”
See how sinister hypocrisy can be? You don’t buy it?
Another false belief here…
“Since everyone easily associates my spiritual maturity with how well I can act and perform, all I need to do is use some smarts. Mix some “innocence of a dove” with a little “deception of a serpent.” Sprinkle it with just enough sugar….
…Abide by generally accepted norms of morality and goodness. All the while, staying within what’s biblical and Christ-like…
…Make others think I’m spiritually “with it.” Do a few magical Christ-like deeds…
…Mix it in with a little Christian-ese lingo. Regurgitate a few of Christ’s words from Scripture. And voila! Good to go.”
I know this is pretty harsh on our ego. Jesus also had some not-so-pretty words for the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 23:27-28):
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (HCSB)
Ouch!! That must have hurt.
What’s worse? Those who are sick, and have the viral infection of hypocrisy don’t realize they’ve been infected. They’re stuck with this condition. It will lead to death — a slow spiritual death.
This has haunted and demoralized many Christians young and old. It has deadened many Christians. Deadened many churches. Tied down pastors and deacons. Tied down church boards, councils, presbyteries and vestries. It has tied us down.
We have lost the essence of real spiritual freedom. We think we are free when in reality we are walking around in chains like zombies. Zombies are like the walking-dead. They don’t realize what’s really happened to themselves. They unconsciously seek to inflict their infectious disease upon others who are virus-free.
There is sort of a parallel in the words in Revelation 3:1-3,
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. (NIV)
In zombie movies, zombies will eventually die (either by fire, gunfire, or via plasma splatter-matter style). The only hope for zombies is to receive the cure. As human beings without a spiritual cure, we also will die a spiritual death.
The innocent people on the receiving end of our hypocrisy saw it. They ran. Exited the doors of the houses of worship and never looked back.
If that’s you: good on you. You can’t be blamed for running away. You ran before the virus could infect you. I hope you got away safely.
Then, there are some who did not run. They stayed to remain faithful to Christ’s Church. Sadly, they got the infection. They contracted the virus. They morphed into another form.
They saw themselves as good… and as hypocrites by others.
They have continued to spread this disease to others. Some unknowingly became victims of the disease. They became sick. Some died.
We are all victims of the evil one.
Our joy has been sapped out of our spiritual lives. Now we walk with a spiritual limp (like that green pale zombie).
To live a more abundant Christian life, we need a remedy. Those of us within the Church need healing.
And those outside the Church also need recovery.
We need an injection of this serum. Yes there is a serum…a remedy…a solution. Good news is: It’s free.
The courier is God the Holy Spirit. The prescription has been written in the Holy Scriptures.
It’s the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ Jesus — not in our human abilities.
A Danish philosopher/theologian, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55), entitled his book, Sickness Unto Death. I like the title so I borrowed a bit from it. Hence the title of this post. Kierkegaard wrote on “despair” in the midst of a society that grew cold and slid down a path from true faith into mere Christendom. His nation had lost its spiritual moorings. The Church in North America might be in a similar state of spiritual decay today.
Our prayer: “Please God, send us this serum to rid us of this spiritual sickness. Bring us freedom in Jesus Christ. Teach us to walk by faith and not by sight.”