Friday, April 24, 2009

Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid

I'm sure every believer in America has heard Christians being accused of being hypocrites. Several years ago, I wondered if it might be true and dealt with this question honestly. It was easy then, because as a recent convert, I did not feel that the accusation applied to me. I was new at this and felt no responsibility for the reputation that may have been earned. In my conclusion, I was in agreement with my fellow believers: some professing Christians, who may or may not be the genuine article, are overly judgemental and angry. The rest of us also sometimes appear to be hypocritical because, in our imperfection, we can fail to live up to our ideals.

Now, as an adult more confident in my faith, I have very little concern for false accusations. But I find an interesting irony. I do not believe that Christians are generally hypocritical. We do not judge people for things of which we are guilty. In fact, good discipleship leads us away from judging people at all. In that sense we are not hypocritical. That is, not usually and certainly not intentionally. However, I do believe we Christians are most definitely hypocrites. But I use the term in an entirely different way from that used by those who hurl angry accusations at us because they groan under the pressure of their own sin.

I have become quite good at controlling my behavior, especially when not alone. While the reputation for being hypocrites as earlier described is largely false, Christians have earned a reputation for being uptight sticks-in-the-mud because, somewhere in the dark recesses of our hearts, we do know that we must protect ourselves from opportunities to be who we really are. Our impulses must be suppressed. This also improves as we grow in Christ, but it is also very easy to disguise. We spend so much thought, energy, and prayer in correcting our behavior, I fear we neglect our hearts. Again, I find in myself another way in which I may inadvertently try to achieve righteousness. Perhaps, not to earn heaven, but in order to please God and, unfortunately, probably also to please man. However, keeping quiet about feelings of anger, selfishness, pride, etc. does not result in less sin. Rather, it results in habits of hypocrisy and, perhaps, even pride. We become actors.

We really are hypocrites, not as a result of judging others for that of which we also are guilty, but because we hide the truth in our hearts behind a facade of righteous behavior. We wear masks which, by the way, God sees through. I would rejoice with my brothers and sisters if we could all be honest with each other, even to the point of expressing the selfishness, anger, and impatience we sometimes feel, just so that we could share in those struggles, overcome them together, and build each other up in love.

I'm not quite suggesting that we should say and do the things we truly desire to say and do. I do suggest that we truly desire to say and do the things we should say and do. I do not know the path to this end, but I do know that somewhere along the way, we must pass through a place where we are exposed in bright light and our weaknesses are revealed. We are all familiar with the concept of confession, but let us confess the truth for a change and leave none of our own stones unturned. Let us face the truth of our own sinfulness, which is found not in our sins, but in our very selves. Let us embrace not only our weakness, but also that of our brothers and sisters—not to revel in it, but to fully accept it.

Then, let us turn to Jesus who IS our righteousness. His righteousness for us did not stop at the cross. It is not limited to his intercession for us. He is also righteousness in us. We must not fear our feelings and hide them behind righteous acts. Rather, we must confess them and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

    You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. ~Matthew 5:20-21a

    But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~2 Corinthians 12:9-10

    What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! ~Romans 7:24

Hat tip: Collective Soul

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