Hypocrite?

(Romans 2: 1) You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.

Hypocrisy is not a fun subject to contemplate and discuss.  It’s just uncomfortable, because no one wants to be called a hypocrite, and we should always hesitate before pointing the finger in the direction of others. The word itself gets thrown a round a lot, and the meaning is often misunderstood.  Growing up in the church, I heard it over and over, being used in reference to church people who struggled with sinful behaviors.  I would hear people say things like, “He’s in the bar on Saturday and on the front pew on Sunday!  Such a hypocrite!”  Well, that always made me angry.  Being an avid reader and a word/book nerd, I knew that wasn’t the correct definition of a hypocrite, and I couldn’t stand hearing it.  I didn’t like the misuse of the word, which I found annoying, but mostly I just didn’t (and still don’t) like the harsh, judgmental attitude behind the use of it.  So, I just want to take a minute to address hypocrisy…because I think it’s important to know what you’re saying…and, because maybe just you shouldn’t say it at all.

The word “hypocrite” is defined as: (via dictionary.com)

1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.

2. a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

In short, a hypocrite is someone whose actions do not line up with his or her mouth.  This is a person who is talking a whole lot of talk, but walking very little walk…if any at all.  If I am constantly condemning others over sin and mistakes, yet I am continually making the same sinful choices…then I am a hypocrite.  Please don’t mistake this with a person who is struggling to repent.  I have seen so many people who have come to know Christ, yet walked away from the church because they have felt judged and condemned, labelled a hypocrite by friends and family, because they were having trouble walking away from sin.  Well, friends, it’s just not that easy for everyone.  Sin is habitual and addictive, and when you’ve spent a lifetime separated from God by sin, it’s not always so cut and dry.  No one is perfect, and we all sin, don’t we?  Romans 3:23 tells us, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” 

Let me propose a notion then, that we just stop using the word hypocrite altogether.  Why?  Because the examination of the human spirit can only be done by God’s Holy Spirit.  In Jeremiah 17:10, the Lord says:  “But I, the Lord, search all hearts, and examine secret motives.”  He sees it all, knows it all, and reveals it all in His own time and way.  Luke 8: 17 tells us that, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”  His timing.  So if you think someone is a fake, phony, hypocrite…fine…think it.  Then pray about it.  Lift that person up in prayer, because that is how to deal with it in love.  The Holy Spirit will take care of conviction…that’s not our job.  Our job is to love.  And no, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t hold one another accountable!  Of course we should!  In love, and with graceful words, we should privately have those kinds of conversations with one another…because that’s part of being a family.  However, don’t backbite and judge.  You just don’t know a person’s heart the way that God does.  You don’t know their struggles, their pain, their circumstances, and on that front pew is the best place that anyone (no matter what they’ve done) could be every week! 

When we enter into relationship with Christ, we begin a journey toward holiness and sanctification that is never quite completed.  We become more mature as the years pass…as we learn from mistakes and turn from old habits and ways…but we are never fully righteous until that day when we see the face of our Savior.  Until that day, we must keep on keepin’ on, and we can’t be tearing one another down with our words and preconceptions about each others’ lives!  Romans 8:1 reminds us of something that we sometimes forget:  “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”  There is always grace, friends.  Always.  And we must be just as willing to give it as we are to receive it!

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for the truth of Your Word.  I love knowing that through it, I am able to receive gentle, loving correction.  So I ask You now, Lord, to forgive me of the times when I have been so quick to judge and to turn my nose in the air when I have seen people in the midst of struggle with sin.  Help me to remember the “log” in my own eye, before I point out the “speck” in someone else’s.  Help me to love others the way that You have loved me.  Amen.

That’s YOUR Problem

When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders.

“I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.”

“What do we care?” They retorted. “That’s your problem.”

Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself. The leading priests picked up the coins. “It wouldn’t be right to put this money in the Temple treasury,” they said, “since it was payment for murder.”

Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection has heard about Judas. His story is so infamous that his very name has become an insult. To be called a Judas indicates that you are someone who cannot be trusted…someone who will stab others in the back…a traitor. And this is not an unfair assessment. Judas was a man of weak character (see John 12, which tells of his greed and theft from his companions). He sold out his teacher and his fellow disciples, and his betrayal lead to Jesus’ arrest and death. But for all of his failings, he was not beyond feeling guilt and remorse when the realization of what he had done finally sank in.

Judas tried to take it back. He wanted to fix it. He tried to return the money, and confessed his sin. He proclaimed Jesus’ innocence, but it was too late. Events that had been set in motion that could not be stopped. And it was his inability to make it right that caused Judas, in despair, to take his own life. It’s a sad tale and although Judas’ sin will forever be remembered, his story is not an uncommon one. Many of us have found ourselves dealing with the consequences of words and actions that we wish we could take back, but could not.

What struck me, though, was the difference between Judas’ response and that of the priests. Judas realized his mistake, and tried to make it right, but could not. The priests, on the other hand, could not care less about the anguish that Judas felt or the fact that an innocent man was going to die.

“What do we care? That’s your problem.” — That’s cold.

But what truly blows my mind about their response is not their apathy towards Judas and their complicity in a murder plot. It’s that at the end of it all, they were more worried about the impropriety of putting “blood money” in the offering plate…money that they themselves had paid to have Jesus betrayed and murdered! They were so blinded by their own hypocrisy that they could not see the absurdity of their “dilemma.”

In my heart, I want to think of them as monsters. It would be so much easier if we could just dismiss them as evil, twisted or wicked creatures. (And the things they did most certainly WERE evil, twisted and wicked!) But the reality is that they were just humans, like you and me. The reason that they were able to reach such a level of depravity is because they had trained themselves to ignore the pricks of their conscience. They were practiced in the art of self-deception and skilled in the mental gymnastics necessary to justify their actions. And this is a crime of which we have all been guilty.

When confronted with our own wrongdoing, it is a natural response to try to defend ourselves. We deny and deflect. We try to explain why it wasn’t really as bad as it seems:

No one ever uses it or would even notice that it was missing…

He had it coming…

She started it…

Everyone else does it…

The problem is that as long as we keep lying to ourselves and others, we remain willfully blind to our sin. We are just hypocrites, trying to fool everyone (including ourselves) that we are not.

The only way to break the cycle of sin and deception is to be more like Judas. I never thought I’d find myself encouraging others to be like Judas, but it’s true. If we want to make things right, we have to own our mistakes and confess our sins. However, what Judas did not understand was the immensity of God’s forgiveness and grace. Because he believed that it was too late, Judas gave in to despair and hung himself. But with God, it’s never too late. No person is too great a sinner, no relationship is too far gone, and no situation is beyond his ability to heal and restore. When we come to God in humility and with a contrite spirit, he WILL redeem us…failures and all.

PRAYER: Almighty God, reveal to us the areas of our lives where we are hypocritical. We humbly ask your forgiveness for the things we have done and the lies we have told ourselves and others. Help us to move beyond the deception to walk in the light of your Truth. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

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