OK, maybe not all of us, but far too many of us. The internet is full of our hypocrisy.
We preach conservative family values and wave our brand of Christianity like a triumphant banner guaranteeing success — and, when caught actively pursuing adulterous affairs and paying for sex, we cry that we are poor, helpless addicts in need of rehab.
We amass a following and enjoy our status as theologians — and, when our names are found listed on a website of those seeking adulterous affairs, we cry that we are lonely widowers, overcome with curiousity, and that we stopped short of physically fulfilling our lusts.
We preach grace and, when forced to admit our adulterous affairs, blame our wives for being unfaithful first, and thus forcing us to find solace in the arms of other women.
But it’s not a new thing, this hypocrisy. It’s ongoing.
We preach against homosexuality while frequenting homosexual prostitutes.
We proclaim the importance of the family while tearing ours apart.
And it’s not just the celebrity Christians who are hypocrites.
We criticize those discovered committing the very sins we engage in, because we are arrogant enough to assume we are too clever to be exposed.
We denounce feminists as home-wreckers, elevate the domestic arts, teach the necessity of a servant heart and meek spirit for women, exhort wives to submit to their husbands in even the most difficult situations — and then we leave our husbands to run off with other men who promise us a different lifestyle.
We decry the church leaders who rent porn movies in their hotel rooms at Christian conferences. But we justify doing the same at our secular conferences: after all, we were curious…we were lonely…we were sexually unfulfilled…we had good reason to be angry at our spouses…and besides, at least we weren’t being “poor testimonies” by being openly Christian.
We encourage and live the ultimate in conservative, wholesome lifestyles, criticizing those with “lesser standards”, only to engage in secret flirtations that we justify as “harmless friendships” — and then pretend surprise at finding ourselves in the midst of sordid affairs.
We preach repentance but excuse, justify, and minimize our sins. We didn’t actually do x, y, z…we stopped short…what that other person did was far worse…we couldn’t help it…we can explain…we were hurting at the time…we were lonely…our spouses were making us suffer…we were addicted…there were extenuating circumstances…it sounds worse than it really was…don’t judge…what about you?…let the one who is without sin cast the first stone…stop making such a big deal of this…get over it already!
We preach morality — and practice immorality.
We preach truth — and practice lies and deception.
We preach love — and practice hate.
We preach the gospel — and trample it under foot.
Yes, not all of us. Not all Christians. I know, I know. Not every one of us hides secret sin, and not every one of us is a hypocrite and a phony. But far too many of us are. We have only ourselves to blame that our reputation, as followers of Jesus, has become synonymous with full of hypocrites rather than full of love.
That’s why many of us have felt forced to have discussions of late, trying to figure out how to respond to, how to process, this latest round of public exposures and scandals. There are those who choose to minimize these egregious sins, excuse them — or blame them on extenuating circumstances, faulty theology, poor upbringings, human frailty, and wives who aren’t sexy or eager enough. Others propose all sorts of remedies against sin. On one extreme are those who seem to want to toss up their hands and give up — admit we are all vile sinners, pretend no sin is worse than another, talk about grace, and hope for the best in the end. On the other extreme are those who demand more rules and safeguards, higher standards, and an all-out, never ceasing, full scale war against any and all sin.
Then there is me…author of a blog titled “Prone to wander”…former prodigal daughter dragged/carried back home by a loving Father…what about me?
In one of those recent discussions, I wrote this:
I have tried the legalistic approach, erecting rules and structures designed to keep me from what I determined were the most egregious sins. That reduced me to battling against sin with my own strength and wisdom — or attempting to apply what I thought was wisdom from others.
I have tried the “we are all vile sinners so let us thank God for His grace” approach.
The end result? I am not strong enough or wise enough or good enough for either approach.
These days my heart’s cry is that I might know Jesus, truly KNOW Him, both through the pages of Scripture and through time spent in His Presence, and that I might be transformed through His indwelling presence…that I might become holy as He is holy. I desperately need and desire that intimacy and unity with Him, because He is both my greatest reward and my only true hope.
If we love Him, we will obey His commandments. We will find His yoke easy and His burden light. My biggest prayer is that I might love Him more, not just to keep me from sin, but because He is worthy of a far greater love than that which flies from my puny, selfish, stingy little heart.
[In my opinion], we cannot spend time — prayerful, reflective time in which we ask the Holy Spirit for illumination — in the epistles and come away with an attitude of “we all sin so adultery and murder is no big deal”.
But I think it is important that, in our personal lives, we spend far more time focused on pursuing Christ than on fighting sin. Silly example: I could spend all day battling fiercely against any temptation to adultery or murder, and find myself feeling quite victorious at day’s end. But I would be no closer to my Savior and no more like Him.
I begin to hate sin when I ask Him to turn me into the sort of person who hates what He hates and loves what He loves.
There is so little of Jesus in all too much of what I read these days about how we should respond to sin.
It’s not just religious talk: Jesus really is my greatest reward and my only true hope. The sad truth of my nature and character is something I blurted out to my parents during one of my wandering prodigal phases, “I am not cut out for Christianity!” (My father tried to tell me that was the very point: none of us are. But I found that hard to believe coming from him, the man whose life makes me almost believe in the doctrine of sinless perfection.)
Ah, so your Christianity is just a crutch?
Yes..and no. Honestly, Christianity has not served me well as a crutch — because my problem is much deeper and more serious than a lame or gimpy leg. I need a Savior, a Healer, a Rescuer, a Friend. In short, I need Jesus.
He doesn’t beat me up when He shows me the enormity and ugliness of my sins in comparison to His goodness. He doesn’t condemn me when He reminds me what those hideous sins of mine cost Him. But being forced to face my sins without excuse— even the little, seemingly inconsequential ones — does break my heart…and that’s a good thing. On its own, my heart has a tendency to grow callous, hard, and unloving. It is His love for me, His friendship with me, that brings me to life.
So the answer to this whole mess of hypocritical Christians behaving abysmally? It’s more Jesus. He offers the only lasting cure for those of us with a bent towards hypocrisy, or whatever other sins happen to be the ones that plague and entice us.
More of Him, less of me.
That may sound like a pious platitude, but I mean it profoundly, in a way that is both desperate and practical. Finally, after all these years, I am getting to know Him in a deeper and more real sense than ever before, and my entire life is being turned upside down. His love is changing me, at the very core of my being, more than I ever thought possible. I’m still not cut out for Christianity. But, with His help, I hope to follow Jesus anywhere He takes me. After all, why wouldn’t I want to follow the One who lavishes and inundates me with a greater love than I ever thought possible, the One who died to win my heart?