In Defense of Hypocrisy
We are all sinners; we all mess up; and that’s one of the points of the Gospel (to put to death our hypocrisy all the way down to the depths of our being). The Gospel, Jesus Christ, reveals to us the only human being (the God-man!) who is not a hypocrite; he is the only One who is in consistent relation with the orientation of what humanity was always intended for—for a right/reconciled relationship with the Triune lover of our body/soul. When people say that they don’t believe in Christianty because it is fully of hypocrites, there is a big irony here; of course it is, that’s the point. Hypocrisy presupposes a standard of rightness and disposition that none of us measure up to left to ourselves. Of course, again, that standard is God in Jesus Christ; without him—as John 15:5 communicates—we can do nothing.
Now, I am not suggesting that we can use this reality as a license for sin—as the Apostle would say, “God forbit it!” But what I am suggesting is that being a hypocrite is the ongoing reality of what it means to live with the reality of a fallen disoriented disposition towards God. This is not an excuse for sinful behavior or actions or attitudes; but it is an acknowledgement that we all continue to lumber around with aspects in our lives, obviously, that are not always for God. Instead, what often is the case is that we continue to operate in a mode of ‘inward curvedness’; we continue to make choices and moves that suppose that we are at the center of the creation, and not Jesus Christ.
I wanted to broach this because I am afraid that within Evangelical Christianity—the sector of Christianity I am most familiar with—even though there have been recent and ongoing calls to be authentic; even though we have constructed a therapeutic culture wherein we have almost come to celebrate certain self-centered dispositions; there is still, it seems to me, this sense of piousness and perfectionism—a cluster of perceived and cultural ‘B-attitudes’—that shapes the way we interact with each other. In other words, for all our authenticity we are almost more cloistered. We seem to have a shallow notion of what it means to be a successful Christian—appearing victorious and circumspect in all things—but in fact when we project this (especially as Christian leaders, et. al.) we end up closing off space wherein genuine hypocrisy can come out, and we can deal honestly and forthrightly with each other as ‘saved’ human beings.
One of the problems I see driving this is that we have made our Christianity too private; and the way we have sequestered our Christianity is to project holiness where there is sinfulness. This is not to say that we shouldn’t rejoice in the true and genuine victory that we have in Christ over and against sin in our daily lives; but this is to recognize that all too often this posture of ‘holiness’ is only gloss that is trying to mask the fact (ironically) of the hypocrisy within (even if its not apparent to others). Sooner or later this posture catches up to us, and no matter who we are our hypocrisy is seen for what it is; and then all those who looked to us are crushed, because they have been fed an inflated version—an uberman/woman—of what they thought we were. Beyond that, when we project this ‘holy posture’ newer Christians (often) will feel condemned and a sense of failure. The reality is is that we should honestly recognize before everyone that we all are indeed failures and hypocrites, and that without Jesus we can do nothing.
I don’t want this post to sound too negative, but I do want to emphasize through this post that nobody has arrived; except Jesus. We need to be honest about our hypocrisy and repent daily looking to Jesus for our sustenance. I am a hypocrite, but Jesus isn’t; and he is my life, Praise God!
- Posted in: Reflection