This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life… Paul the Apostle, from his 1st letter to Timothy
When I am talking about Jesus and share what it means to follow Him, I get a form of this statement back: “The church is full of hypocrites.”
Hypocrisy is defined by Websters as this: A pretense of virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.
I struggle with my answer, but in reality it shouldn’t be such a struggle. I heard a preacher friend say this: “Yes, there are hypocrites in the church. Do you go to Wal-Mart? Be careful there are hypocrites there too! Don’t go to work either, because you will find hypocrites there, too!”
Nobody wakes up in the morning wanting to be a hypocrite. I, for one, don’t want to be one. However many times I find myself as hypocritical as the next guy. Letting others think I don’t have lustful thoughts, when I might struggle with this is hypocritical. Letting others think I have a great prayer life, when I fight to have one just like you might be is hypocritical.
You see, it’s called a mask. A hypocritical Halloween costume. So many of us are masters of disguise, and we aren’t really good at it! (think Edgar, the roach-alien in Men in Black).
There are costumes in the pulpits, the pew, on Facebook and at home. We all want everyone around us to think we have things together that we actually do not. Your pastor doesn’t have it all together, probably had a fight with his wife where he was unloving and overbearing just like most other men before he preached that masterpiece of a sermon. Your Sunday School teacher may have fought thoughts of suicide Saturday night. The long-standing deacon who seems to be an upright pillar could be fighting back a desire to drink or may have found himself in the bar this week. I could go on, but you get the picture.
You know, Paul the Apostle, who God trusted and inspired to write most of the New Testament, in his writing seems to have this mask thing licked. He talks about himself being the chief of sinners in 1 Timothy. He openly tells about his struggle with sin in Romans 7 and how he constantly has to fight it. His thorn in the flesh, although we don’t read what it was, required God’s grace to get Him through daily. I have never read any of Paul’s writings and had the thought that he was perfect. I understand he had a lot of knowledge and teaching skill, I read that he knew how to fight against his sin-nature, but I read so much of Paul affirming he is a sinner saved by grace! An imperfect man seeking to walk upright before God, yes. Hypocrite, no. Disguise, no – and God used him mightily.
You and I are royal screw-ups. Unless we have a glorified body and are in Heaven (I don’t have any visitor counts from Heaven, so that’s not you), we all have something in our lives that we don’t have right. We may not do the “big taboo sins” that everyone claims they don’t do, but we are no different from those who do by the way we treat people, the ideology of how we think we are right when Jesus would beg to differ, and what hideous thoughts we REALLY think. The difference between a Christ follower and a sinner is simply that the Christian is saved by grace and is working out his salvation with fear and trembling. Take the mask off. Let others see that Christ is working in you, and never claim you are righteous in something you are not.
Oh, and don’t worry about those who come out with their pointing fingers of condemnation when you do take your mask off. Just picture them as Edgar the roach from Men in Black and pray for them.