Friday, September 14, 2012

Today's Critic of Hypocrisy Is Tomorrow's Hypocrite

I have never, ever met a person whose deeds totally matched their words. Even the strongest Jesus-followers I have known have had their moments of duplicitousness. And, of course, I have too. I am certain I am more aware of my own hypocrisy more than that of others.

The Jesus-followers that have most influenced me have all been honest about their need for continual transformation. Their salvation was being worked out in fear and trembling. They, like Paul, didn't claim to have "arrived."

These mentors were transparent before me. They pointed me to our need for The Perfect One. They exhibited much grace towards me. I am so grateful (graceful?) for this! Because, if we claim to be without hypocrisy, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (My loose yet in-the-ballpark translation of 1 John 1:8.)

Enter the critic. Call him X. X has the gift of criticism. X has the genius of finding flaws and inconsistencies in others. With X's gift comes delight, for X loves to identify the hypocrite and paste his face on the tabloid's front page. X stands above and looks down on us. X calls himself a "Christian" and cries "Thank you God, that I am not like the rest of these fakes!" (I'm going to guess that X's father, or mother, or both, were hypocrite-spotting critical hypocrites.)

But all of this is, of course, an offensive disguise created to deflect the attention off X. For X, like us, is a liar and a thief and a cheat and knows it, or at least once knew it before X believed the mask.

Beware the critics, within and without the church, for they are the hypocrites of tomorrow. Yet even they can be rescued, for 1 John immediately adds, if we confess our hypocrisy, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our duplicitousness and purify us from all unrighteousness. (Loose translation #2, of 1 John 1:9.)

Beware perfectionist theology. It errs in making behavior the focus of the Christian life. It isolates. It is an act of unfaith, because too much depends on the self. And, it conceives and labors and gives birth to the hypocrite.