Here’s my last in this blog series on the seven elephants in the room that the church rarely if ever talks about. If the church is supposed to provide sanctuary as in a safe place to talk about important things, then having any elephants at all implies this last elephant. Its name is hypocrisy.
Webster defines hypocrisy as: “the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do : behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.” Since nothing like that type of behavior ever happens in any church, it’s no wonder we never hear this word …..
.……..one leaves the church and talks with some people who no longer attend church. Then the word comes out with some frequency.
The classic joke, of course, is that when told by an unchurched person that the church was full of hypocrites, the Christian said, “that’s true, but there’s always room for one more and we’d love to have you.” My own response along these lines is to say something like, “yes, we really are a bunch of hypocrites, but you should have seen how bad we were before starting into church. We were even a much worse mess then than we are now.”
Of course, we Christians are a bunch of hypocrites. In church. Out of church. We’re all hypocrites if we say we follow Jesus but don’t do what he says. Or if we believe Jesus but don’t follow him. We know we are hypocrites! The whole world knows we are hypocrites! What’s the point of keeping it secret? That train left the station a LONG time back!
Basically, I have two points to make here about this elephant. First, if we truly believe Jesus (side-note, believe as opposed to believe IN Jesus…..even the devil believes IN him), we should then obey or follow him in doing what he did. That’s what he told us to do, right? Which is interesting because Jesus DID lots of talking about hypocrisy. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible notes 22 separate verses in which Jesus talks about hypocrisy [hypokrisis, hypocrite in the Greek] and always in reference to people who were big into his own religion of Judaism. So if the sins that mattered to Jesus also matter to us, well, let’s then start with the sin of hypocrisy. I’d be hard pressed to find any other sin that mattered as much to Jesus as this one. If Jesus mentioned any other sin more than 22 times, please correct me on this.
Secondly, it’s awfully hard to fix anything in the church or elsewhere if we say it’s not even broken. We can’t improve upon our perfection. We can only solve a problem that we openly admit having. Until then, we can fix nothing! Improve nothing! Solve nothing!
Certainly there are plenty of problems in our world, mistakes being made, sins being committed. Jesus talked openly about several of them. If we neglect the ones he talked about and instead talk about the ones he never even mentioned, then that makes us Christian hypocrites all the more. We just keep digging our hole even deeper that way. So let’s try something different for a change. Let’s repent and see what happens when we talk openly about our own sinful hypocrisy, the log in our own eye, and show the world we actually do know how to fix what’s broken, improve what’s not yet excellent, and solve what’s still wrong in this world.
Paul did that in the 1st century church ( “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” I Timothy 1:15) and look how his ministry turned out. Today Pope Francis is doing this in the Roman Catholic Church (confessing not parishioner to priest but rather priest to parishioner!!) and look how many folks are returning to that church. Let’s give this same thing a try in our own churches, our own communities, and then watch what God will do to greatly improve this world through us.