The third step to change so that people will be attracted to us, to the Church and, of course, to Jesus. The third step to becoming different and dangerous… STOP BEING A HYPOCRITE
A pastor writes: It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was in the parking lot of a downtown Portland mall… We were in a bit of a rush, as I had just realized that I was going to be late for the start of our weekend services. That weekend, I was preaching a message about God’s love. As we were rushing to enter the mall, we passed a young teenage girl. She was obviously homeless (Oregon is in the top 10 percent of the nation for homelessness), and as we walked by, she looked up at me and asked, “Sir, do you have any spare change for the bus?” Without hesitating, I mumbled a quick no and kept moving. But as I pushed open the glass doors, I clearly heard God speak these words into my heart: “You are a hypocrite.”
We get our English word hypocrite from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor, stage player, pretender or one who wears a mask.” Hypocrites are people who wear masks. We pretend that we are something other than what we really are. We fail to live out our convictions, and our actions fail to match our words. In his book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard observes, “Hypocrite is a term used by Jesus alone in the New Testament, and he uses it seventeen times. The term hypocrite in classical Greek primarily refers to an actor, such as one sees on the stage, but it can also refer to anyone who practices deceit. When Jesus used this term he was utilizing a very vivid image that effectively seized the minds of his hearers because of their familiarity with stage characters.”I find it particularly interesting that Jesus always used this term when he was speaking about or to the religious leaders of his day.
None of us want to be known as a pretender. I don’t know too many people who want to live a lie and wear a mask. Deep inside we all want to be known for who we truly are, but our sin leads us to hide our failures and make excuses for our shortcomings and sins. Often we justify our behaviors by making excuses for why we act a certain way. I have learned that activity for God can easily become one of those excuses that leads us into hypocrisy. We can look busy and may even be quite busy, but we can easily miss the things that matter to God, even when they are right in front of us.
In his first letter to the early church, the apostle John beautifully sums up one of the guiding principles of the Christian life, describing the kind of love that characterizes followers of Christ: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother [or a homeless teenage girl] in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18 NIV). Ouch! In this passage, John is clear that what we say doesn’t prove our love for God, or our devotion to the cause of Christ. How we love people validates that God’s love is in us. We can’t change the past, but as we receive the gracious forgiveness of God, we can choose to repent, to turn from our sin and respond in obedience and humility. Repentance is about turning around and going the opposite way, turning away from our sin and by God’s grace choosing to do what is right.
I am reminded yet again that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Mark 10:45 NIV). And, to show His love to the world we must be willing to serve as well. And there are many opportunities to do just that right where we live, work and play. We need to start living what we say we believe and thus stop being hypocrites.