So, you think all Christians are hypocrites?
For a long time, a very long time, I believed that to be a good Christian I had to have my act together. I had to be a good girl, a good wife, a good mommy. There were certain things that had to be done to prove that I was “good enough”. The list of expectations generally followed the Bible, and whatever ‘hot topic’ was being addressed in my church at the time. Perhaps it was modesty, or not drinking, or always going to prayer meeting, or being a submissive wife, or …
Sometimes I still believe it. It’s so easy to fall back into thinking that I need to prove myself, to the world, to the church, to God. I feel this persistent pressure to show that I am worthy of God’s love.
Except that I’m not.
And never will be.
I feel the weight of a thousand expectations from every side – this world requires something out of an unapologetic born-again believer. Of course, those expectations are a moving target and it’s not a fair game, but whatever – I still play along, and when I can’t quite live up to the standard? I pretend to. I pretend like I have my life together, that my kids are better behaved, that I sin less and love more than I actually do. I put on make-up to hide the circles under my eyes that give away the fact that I have not slept well in seven years, and maybe I’m running on empty today. I pretend that the back-handed comment didn’t offend me like it did. I pretend not to be jealous of her baking skills, or his quick wit.
But the worst is that I judge you for doing the same: For pretending; for only showing a happy, beautiful version of your life on Facebook; for not being both transparent and perfect at the same time.
Listen: I know I’m not really living up to my own expectations, but rather than admit it I compare myself to those around me, putting them down for their faults and shortcomings to make myself feel better about mine. I expect from them what I cannot expect from myself.
“Hypocrite!” you say. And you’d be right.
If you are reading this, you probably fall into one of three categories:
You are not a Christian, and you think all Christians are hypocrites. Well – you got your answer – but can I challenge you to realize that you are one too? You expect consistency out of others that you cannot keep up yourself. You look down on me for being a Christian who looks down on you because you are not. (sorry about that, I’m working on it)
You are Christian who agrees – you know you don’t live a consistent life – that you are not all that you want (and pretend to be), but are thankful for the mercy of knowing the truth. You are free (when you remember this, of course) to be honest with yourself, and God, and perhaps even others. You know there is grace for even this fault.
You are a Christian and don’t like that I have called you a hypocrite. Well, sorry (not sorry), but it’s true. There is no way, NO WAY! You can live the life you ought to live. There is no way that you have it all together. You have not turned your back on sin, never to stumble again. SO STOP PRETENDING!!! You are not doing yourself, anyone else, and most certainly not God any favours by acting better than the rest of us.
Have you noticed what we all have in common? We’re all messed up. We’ve all screwed up. We can’t fix it. We can’t heal all the hurts we have caused. We can’t undo the damage we have done, or do enough to make up for it either. We are, all of us, up the creek without a paddle, a motor, or the ability to swim.
What’s to be done?
We’re hopeless, and he offers us hope, while we are still messed up. He doesn’t expect us to clean up our act first.
And guess what? We don’t even have to clean up our act after, either! Say what!?! Read it and rejoice!
Do we change, though? Well, yeah, we do – but not because we need to prove ourselves, and not because we will get something from God, but because the joy of freedom allows us to trust that what God says is good, is good – though it might not be easy. And He makes us new and gives us the desire to change for our own benefit, and for his glory.
And that is good news for this hypocrite!
(As for those self-righteous, placard wearing, so-called Christians who won’t admit their hypocrisy? Pray for them. They haven’t seen the truth about themselves, that their hearts are as prone to sin as the people they put-down and fight against. They don’t know about grace, not really – the grace God freely offers them and the world – love without cost – forgiveness, freedom. If they did they might put down their signs long enough to realize we are all in the same boat, and maybe do a little more loving and less condemning.)
For the rest of us, here is one of my favorite Martin Luther quotes:
So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!”
Thank you, Jesus, for forgiving even my pretense and hypocrisy. Help me to give to others the mercy that I have received. Help me to see them with understanding and compassion, and not with harsh judgment, for I have been forgiven much – much more than I will ever know. All praise to you, Jesus. You have not just saved me for eternity, but you are working in me now, making me more like you – however slow and painful the work may be. Help me submit to the changes you are making in me, though it hurts at times, I trust that it is for my good, and the good of the world you love, because you are good.