Friday, March 14, 2008

Word of the week: hypocrisy

There are some weeks where an image or an idea seems to follow you wherever you go. The past couple of weeks, the idea of hypocrisy seemed to be everywhere. I have been reading unChristian where they are discussing the attitudes of outsiders toward the church. In it they explore the opinion outsiders have of Christian's being hypocrites. We also had the very obvious case of Governor Spitzer: crusading law man turned simple, albeit it affluent, john. The word has also popped up in conversations I have been party to.

Hypocrisy is a definite issue for the church to face and be honest about. The original understanding of the Greek words for hypocrite and hypocrisy come from the Greek theater. The hypocrite was the actor who performed a role behind the mask of a character. Hypocrisy was used in a broader sense. It could apply to any type of acting or faking.

When we think about a hypocrite or hypocrisy in today's language, we think about someone who says or does one thing while holding a different set of beliefs. For Christians this is usually leveled against people who preach against or denounce certain behaviors while turning around and doing those exact things they preach against.

Biblically hypocrisy is any form of putting forward beliefs through word or action that you do not actually hold. The Pharisee's claimed to believe in God's law but, according to Jesus, did everything in their power to subvert the law. Jesus warns his hearers of the "leaven of the Pharisees". Jesus points out that nothing that is hidden will remain hidden. It will eventually be revealed. The point comes around that God will see and hear and know everything that is done in secret and the dark.

The book unChristian makes the point that outsiders see Christians as hypocrites because they claim the love of Jesus yet do not show love to those who believe differently, those who live outside our "rules", or anyone we disagree with. As many Christians are confronted with this we see the fallacy of this argument.

But it does not alter the fact that we are in a culture that is sensitive to hypocrisy as well as looking for opportunities to point it out. Our lives are lived in the realm of the visible and obvious. We live in glass houses. Not by our choice. But because we live in a culture where Christians are weighed by the words we say and the actions we live out.

So we have come full circle. The lives of early Christians was also weighed by their words and actions. Simon Peter was caught in an incident of what could be called hypocrisy. Paul and Peter were engaged in active fellowship with Gentiles. There were no problems hanging out with the Gentiles. That is, until some Jews appeared in town. then Simon Peter began to judge the Gentiles by a different set of standards. It was so obvious that Paul had to call Peter to task for his actions (Galatians 2:11-14).

I don't want to claim that I'm perfect. In fact I am the first to say that I mess up. I don't measure my mistakes on a daily basis. I have to count it by the hour sometimes. But that doesn't make me a hypocrite. I am honest about my failure. But I do not stop trying to live a better life everyday. Christ calls us to perfect love, obedience in service, and love without boundaries. So my challenge to myself is to make the public person everyone sees and the private person only God sees as close to each other without any hypocrisy.
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