Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hypocrite

My older daughter's favorite insult to hurl at her older brother is "Hypocrite!" My son has an easier time of being who he is without thinking about who other people are (although he does seem to have it in for my older daughter at times). But my daughter has to bring my son's behavior into everything, which I believe goes back to them being very, very close as small children until my son decided playing with his little sister was not cool. Thus, I think she is still processing and negotiating that rejection. They go round and round. Yet I'm convinced in a few more years, they will be fantastic friends.

Back to being a hypocrite. I don't know why she has such a fascination with this word; or why she is so bothered by the inconsistencies of other people's actions; except I have a "checkered past" with exercising criticism toward others. Perhaps she has inherited this distasteful trait from me. When we are haunted by a spirit of criticism, we unknowingly fall into the very trap we set for others. After all, that is what qualifies us as being hypocrites -- saying one thing and doing another.

I'm too lazy to walk five feet to my bookshelf and look the word hypocrite up, so I'll offer up dictionary.com's definition instead:

"A person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, esp. a person whose actions belie stated beliefs."

Is there any one of us Christians who isn't a hypocrite? Can any of us go through the course of a single day without our actions belying our stated beliefs? Even if we try really, really, really hard to be good and perfect, it won't happen.

On the other hand, should we therefore become fatalistic in our thinking? Should we say, "Well, I can't stop myself from sinning, so why even try?" Paul puts is like this:

1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:1-4)

I like Paul. I remember discussing him once and learning that not everyone is a Paul fan. How is that possible? Someone even had the "audacity" to say that Paul had a tendency to let his legalistic underwear show. He is so authentic, in my opinion. The real deal. At least, that is the portrayal I have of him in my mind's eye. Yet he is quick to point out his own shortcomings and to say repeatedly, that if he will boast, he will boast in Christ Jesus. Heck, maybe he was the chief sinner of all time. Who knows? Certainly, he was human. Certainly, human frailty was at work in him like the rest of us.

I think Paul was probably pretty hard on himself. Is that what leaders are supposed to do? I see that he embraces the new life we have in Christ, but if we spend too much time analyzing our thoughts and actions all the time, do we diminish God's grace at work in us? My faith journey in recent years has taken me to a line of thinking that says God is much more interested in forgiveness than examining my sins under a microscope. Forgiveness sets us free. Examination imprisons us.

But be careful. I don't mean to suggest we should not examine ourselves regularly. Yet that examination should only take place against the backdrop of God's love, grace and forgiveness. Perhaps believing that God is all-loving and all-forgiving without applying that love and forgiveness to ourselves is the worst form of hypocrisy.

Perhaps.

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