As a relatively new Christian, I first became aware of my hypocrisy during my high school years. My roommate at boarding school was Jewish. We spent a lot of time together, and so he had many opportunities to observe me in a variety of settings. One day he shared with me a summary his findings, ‘You’re a fair weather Christian’, he told me. ‘You act like a Christian when it suits you.’
In short, my roommate’s judgment was that his Christian roommate often acted in very unChristian ways. I can only pray that my friend has since had encounters with other Christians who would represent Jesus better than I did.
My roommate’s assessment of me was accurate and fair. I was a fair weather Christian. There was a huge disconnect between what I said and what I did. And the reason I can admit to this embarrassing exchange is because it radically altered the course of my life. My own hypocrisy disgusted me (it still does), and I became determined to lead a life more consistent with the faith I professed. While I do realize that some measure of hypocrisy will always be a part of who I am, I have also learned that I can make progress in the fight against these inconsistencies in my life.
Apparently, I’m not alone in this struggle. David Kinnaman, following years of extensive research, has written a book describing what those outside of Christianity think about Christians. He summarized his findings in the one word title of his book: unChristian. The world outside of Christianity doesn’t regard those on the inside to be representing Jesus very well.
That bugs me. (Yet, I realize that, to some degree, I’m still part of the problem.)
More notably, however, hypocrisy bugs Jesus.
Matthew 15:1-20 describes a confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day. The Pharisees were bothered that Jesus wasn’t ensuring that His disciples were engaged in all of the ceremonial washings. Jesus responds with a rebuke. He calls them ‘hypocrites’ (Matthew 15:7-9) and suggests that they are doing a dreadful job in representing the faith they profess.
My temptation is to sometimes imagine myself in that scene, aligned with Jesus in His rebuke. But, when I think more deeply about this scene I discover that some of the attitudes which plagued the Pharisees also plague me.
This past Sunday I delivered a message about hypocrisy, outlining the marks of the hypocrite (according to Matthew 15:1-20), while offering a suitable remedy. Again, I don’t think that hypocrisy can be entirely eliminated on this side of heaven; nonetheless, I am convinced that our efforts to stem hypocrisy are hugely important.
Hypocrisy is a big deal. It negatively shapes the perceptions that others have about Christians. Hypocrisy reflects poorly on our Lord. Moreover, it dishonours Him.
If you’re looking for an antidote for hypocrisy, I encourage you to listen to the audio message below.
I also commend the following short video, produced by Desiring God Ministries. The video is admittedly a bit slow moving, but is a powerful tool for highlighting this ancient problem of hypocrisy.
As always, your comments are appreciated!