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Hypocritical: Part 5 – Get Real

“Hey, how are you doing?” – “I’m fine.”

How often does that conversation replay itself in your life? How often is the “I’m fine” reply, coming either from you or from the person with whom you are speaking, a lie? Consider this conversation from The Italian Job and how it defines “F-I-N-E.”

John Bridger: How do you feel?
Charlie Croker: I’m fine.
John: Fine? You know what “fine” stands for?
Charlie: Yeah, unfortunately.
John: “Freaked-out,” “Insecure,” “Neurotic” —
Charlie: And “Emotional.”

We ask someone how they are doing, but rarely stop to listen to the answer. We are trained to say, “I’m fine” and keep walking. What would happen if someone stopped and said, “You know what, I’m really struggling today. Thanks for asking. Can we talk? I need some encouragement”??? Instead, we put up our defenses, putting up this wall of impenetrability when inside we are dying for someone to walk through our hurt and pain with us. We are freaked-out, insecure, neurotic and emotional, but good Christians aren’t supposed to struggle like that, so we hide it.

I said in a recent post that “I believe in total depravity, but I don’t want my co-workers to know I am a sinner.” Sure, all of us are sinners. I can say that theologically and practically. But God-forbid I let someone around me know when I’m struggling.

Unfortunately, it is just that attitude that fosters the claims of hypocrisy that we battle. We keep the dark things dark. There are two problems with doing so:

  • Sin dies in the light. Sin loves the dark. Until we bring it into the light, it will not die. Some of my deepest sin patterns that I have overcome (through God’s grace) have been directly tied into public confession of that sin. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:15). Those are the Bible’s words, not mine.
  • The world notices that level of honesty and vulnerability. In fact, letting customers have an inside look is really the trend (and aren’t you glad after all the layers of corporate scandal that have been revealed in the last decade?). The April 2007 cover story of Wired magazine said this, “Smart companies are sharing secrets with rivals, blogging about products in their pipeline, even admitting to their failures. The name of this new game is Radical Transparency, and it’s sweeping boardrooms across the nation.

Wow! Shouldn’t Christians be on the leading edge of this? Shouldn’t we model “Radical Transparency”? Shouldn’t I be willing to admit my failures, clinging to the promise that God is still working on me? Shouldn’t I be willing to say that “yeah, I’m a hypocrite. I really do believe that, but my life doesn’t quite reflect that yet”?

The real danger of hypocrisy comes when we stand in judgment of others for failing to live up to a standard to which we also fall miserably short. In that case, we need to the get the plank out of our own eyes before we worry about the speck in someone else’s eye. Instead, may we become men and women of grace: beggars showing beggars where to find some bread.

Radical greatness in the kingdom requires us to be surprisingly full of grace. We will be accused of being hypocrites – that’s the nature of the already and not yet – until Christ returns and makes us perfect. But the way to avoid giving traction to that accusation is to be marked by humility and vulnerability, letting the grace that we have received flow through us. Then, just maybe, when someone asks us how we are doing, we will be willing to share what’s really going on and how God’s grace enables you to carry on.

Interact: What other ways can Christians offset the accusations of being hypocrites?

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Hypocrisy: Part 4 – Why hypocrisy is so bad

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

After several posts looking at the perception (at least partly valid!) of outsiders that Christians are hypocrites, we must ask one question: So what exactly is so bad about being a hypocrite? And the answer to that question is found in the parable above. Of all people, the Pharisee should have known how great is the salvation of the Lord. As a spiritual leader, he would have known the Scriptures better than anyone, especially the tax collector. But instead of being humbled by his own brokenness and overwhelmed by the grace the Scriptures teach, he became a spiritual snob, rubbing his moral superiority in the noses of those around him.

The problem with hypocrisy is not merely that we fail to live up to what we say we believe. It’s that we look down on others for failing to live up to standards when we ourselves cannot live up to them. Most Christians are, unfortunately, too like the Pharisee. We are spiritual snobs. Instead of one beggar showing another beggar where to find some food, we become confident in our own righteousness. We lose site of our own depravity and the incredible grace that has been extended to us.

If a hypocrite is a Christian who fails to act in accordance with his/her stated beliefs, all of us are hypocrites. We are not finished products yet. Until the day that Christ returns, we will still fall short. Hopefully, we are, each day, being made more like Christ by the Spirit of God. But what will be my attitude during this process? Will I, like the Pharisee, stand on my moral high horse, condemning those who fall short of lofty standards? Or will the grace that has been extended to me overflow to others and meet them at the point of their sin, pain and anguish as it did for the tax collector?

Interact: Are you more like the Pharisee or the tax collector? How so? What needs to change in your life?

Hypocritical: Part 3 – Quotes from the Frontline

USA Today just published an article entitled, “Southern Baptists urge their members to evangelize more.” It is a short article describing briefly some research that Ed Stetzer and Lifeway have done as part of a new evangelism push in the SBC. The article was interesting, but, for our purposes, it is the comments that users have jumped in to offer that will be worth our time. Following are some of the comments to the article…

  • Religion is out of control, and is given far too much respect.
    It enjoys a status it hasn’t earned, doesn’t deserve, and
    it should be mocked and ridiculed as foolishness and a
    public nuisance.
    Religion is like Alcohol.
    The more you indulge,
    the less coherent you sound.
  • is this supposed to be a recruiting tool for fresh republirats???? Bush used this method in the past and while it suceeded, it has now caused americans to dislike the rpeublirat party, while seeing them as hypocrites.
  • The weather is getting nice, time for the baptists to evangelize in a neighborhood near you. Need those $$$ for a BIG new steeple.
  • They are all the same:
    they think they are the true church
    they think the other churches are wrong
    I used to be a christian, I grew up thinking my religion was right and the rest of them were wrong
    C RA P
    I am now a proud ATHEIST and very much happy. I understand now our place in this planet.
  • Why does the mere subject of religion set off anger in so many people?
    ********************
    Seriously?
    Because religion is behind:

    • Eliminating a woman’s right to choose
      Denying homosexuals the right to marry those whom they love
      Limiting scientific research to cure disease
      Right to die issues
      Misogyny
      Many wars
      That’s just for starters.
  • Please don’t knock on my door. I’m busy dealing with reality.
  • It’s a hard concept because Southern Baptists condemn, judge and threaten.
  • The GOP takes a judgmental view of the poor and attracts racists. I doubt Christ would be a Republican.
  • Oh boy, I can’t wait to see the fights at my front door between the Jehovah’s witnesses and the Southern Bapts! I wonder what percentage of the Bible they would agree on?!?
  • Simple. If the southern baptist convention really wants to get the word out they should hire a bunch of Jehovah’s witnesses to hit the streets. THey are a tenacious bunch I tell ya…
  • No one wants to hear these hateful, out of touch, old creatures going around spreading their word.
  • Every so often in the summertime one of the busiest intersections in my city is descended upon by the evangelical howlers who walk up and down in in the stoped traffic and yell and scream at the people in their cars that they are going straight to hell if they don’t shape up right now… it always makes me wish I had a crate of tomatoes on hand.
  • I use to attend church but the hypocrisy of those who say they are Christians and then act otherwise is amazing to me.

Wow. Isn’t that insightful as to what people really think of Christians are our evangelism efforts? These are just a small sample of the comments on the site, but did you notice the 6 themes uncovered by unChristian surfacing? Did you notice that many of these people used to be self-professed Christians?

Stay tuned for part 4 when we look at why being hypocritical is so bad and why it causes us so many problems.

Hypocritical: Part 1 – He’s still working on me

Calling Christians hypocritical is like beating a dead horse. We’ve been down this road before. Once, twice, maybe a hundred times. In unChristian, Kinnaman reports that his study revealed that 85% of outsiders (remember, we was looking specifically at 16-29 year olds) described Christians are hypocritical. That’s a big number. As a result, no matter how many times we’ve been down this road, we need to engage it, interact with it and wrestle through how to more faithfully represent Christ.

Hypocrisy is being two-faced, saying one thing and doing another. So, the short answer to the question of whether or not Christians are hypocrities is, “Well, yes, of course they are.” The path of sanctification is the path of being made more into the image of Jesus each day. We’re not done yet. In the words of the song I learned as a kid,

He’s still working on me to make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be, He’s still working on me.

Until Christ comes again, we will be unfinished products, still occasionally doing something that contrasts what we say we believe. But Jesus is still working on each of us. Hopefully we will do less and less as time goes on that contrasts what we believe, but we won’t be finished until that glorious day.

Unfortunately, too many Christians aren’t growing and too many Christians look just like the rest of the world. Kinnaman reports that 84% of his sample know a Christian personally, but only 15% stated that they saw a lifestyle difference between the Christians they are know and the rest of the world. Christians curse less (26% to 38%), but view engage in sexually inappropriate behavior at almost the same rate (30% to 35%). As Kinnaman states, “If these groups of people [Christians and non-Christians] were in two separate rooms, and you were asked to determine, based on their lifestyles alone, which room contained the Christians, you would be hard-pressed to find much difference” (p. 47).

It’s unfortunate. It’s sad. But the shoe fits. That’s not the whole story as it pertains to hypocrisy. We’ll get there. But the first challenge for all of us, myself included, is to look and see where my lifestyle looks more like the world and less like Christ. From there, let us go and ask the Spirit to transform us from glory to glory.

Interact: How can Christian leaders model their own sanctification as a way to encourage those who follow them that together, they may all become less hypocritical?

Longing to be great

The goal is not to be remarkable for remarkable’s sake. I don’t want to just build a purple cow empire. I want to grow the kingdom. I want see hearts bowed before King Jesus. I long to see the image of God (us) claiming the far corners of the earth for our great King. That is the type of radical greatness to which this author and this blog aspires. So, let us now turn to the objections that unbelievers – outsiders – have to Christianity. What is it that keeps unbelievers from engaging the claims of Christ. David Kinnaman, in an important research study of Mosaic and Buster outsiders (which he defines as 16-29 year olds outside of Christianity) reveals 6 major objections. Unfortunately, and this is the challenge for us, the reason many people do not engage the claims of Christ is because of his followers. As Gandhi is often quoted as saying, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Here are the six major themes (objections or points of skepticism) that Kinnaman’s research revealed (I will quote Kinnaman here and save personal interaction with them for the upcoming series of posts):

  • Hypocritical. Outsiders consider us hypocritical – saying one thing and doing another – and they are skeptical of our morally superior attitudes. They say Christians pretend to be something unreal, conveying a polished image that is not accurate. Christians think the church is only a place for virtuous and morally pure people.
  • Too focused on getting converts. Outsiders wonder if we genuinely care about them. They feel like targets rather than people. They question our motives when we try to help them “get saved,” despite the fact that many of them have already “tried” Jesus and experienced church before.
  • Antihomosexual. Outsiders say that Christians are bigoted and show disdain for gays and lesbians. They say Christians are fixated on curing homosexuals and on leveraging political solutions against them.
  • Sheltered. Christians are thought of as old-fashioned, boring, and out of touch with reality. Outsiders say we do not respond to reality in appropriately complex ways, preferring simplistic solutions and answers. We are not willing to deal with the grit and grime of people’s lives.
  • Too political. Another common perception of Christians is that we are overly motivated by a political agenda, that we promote and represent politically conservative interests and issues. Conservative Christians are often thought of as right-wingers.
  • Judgmental. Outsiders think of Christians are quick to judge others. They say we are not honest about our attitudes and perspectives about other people. They doubt that we really love people as we say we do (p. 29-30).

Now, remember, these may or may not be true and may or may not be fair representations. But they are, at least, widely held perceptions. This is not to say we compromise on truth, but maybe we need to learn how to texture truth with grace in these arenas. In the coming posts, we will explore each of them and their challenge for the church today.

Interact: Do any of these objections resonate with you? Is there one that causes you anguish or slowed (slows) your receptivity to the claims of Christ?

P.S. > Part of the reason that people object to Christ is because they are depraved, slaves to the evil one. It is not our job (we couldn’t do it if we wanted to) regenerate hearts. That is the work of God the Spirit. However, to the extent possible, the path to greatness in the kingdom requires us to be diligent and faithful, quick to learn when and where our actions and our attitudes become obstacles.