(Romans 2: 1) You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.
Hypocrisy is not a fun subject to contemplate and discuss. It’s just uncomfortable, because no one wants to be called a hypocrite, and we should always hesitate before pointing the finger in the direction of others. The word itself gets thrown a round a lot, and the meaning is often misunderstood. Growing up in the church, I heard it over and over, being used in reference to church people who struggled with sinful behaviors. I would hear people say things like, “He’s in the bar on Saturday and on the front pew on Sunday! Such a hypocrite!” Well, that always made me angry. Being an avid reader and a word/book nerd, I knew that wasn’t the correct definition of a hypocrite, and I couldn’t stand hearing it. I didn’t like the misuse of the word, which I found annoying, but mostly I just didn’t (and still don’t) like the harsh, judgmental attitude behind the use of it. So, I just want to take a minute to address hypocrisy…because I think it’s important to know what you’re saying…and, because maybe just you shouldn’t say it at all.
The word “hypocrite” is defined as: (via dictionary.com)
1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
2. a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.
In short, a hypocrite is someone whose actions do not line up with his or her mouth. This is a person who is talking a whole lot of talk, but walking very little walk…if any at all. If I am constantly condemning others over sin and mistakes, yet I am continually making the same sinful choices…then I am a hypocrite. Please don’t mistake this with a person who is struggling to repent. I have seen so many people who have come to know Christ, yet walked away from the church because they have felt judged and condemned, labelled a hypocrite by friends and family, because they were having trouble walking away from sin. Well, friends, it’s just not that easy for everyone. Sin is habitual and addictive, and when you’ve spent a lifetime separated from God by sin, it’s not always so cut and dry. No one is perfect, and we all sin, don’t we? Romans 3:23 tells us, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Let me propose a notion then, that we just stop using the word hypocrite altogether. Why? Because the examination of the human spirit can only be done by God’s Holy Spirit. In Jeremiah 17:10, the Lord says: “But I, the Lord, search all hearts, and examine secret motives.” He sees it all, knows it all, and reveals it all in His own time and way. Luke 8: 17 tells us that, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” His timing. So if you think someone is a fake, phony, hypocrite…fine…think it. Then pray about it. Lift that person up in prayer, because that is how to deal with it in love. The Holy Spirit will take care of conviction…that’s not our job. Our job is to love. And no, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t hold one another accountable! Of course we should! In love, and with graceful words, we should privately have those kinds of conversations with one another…because that’s part of being a family. However, don’t backbite and judge. You just don’t know a person’s heart the way that God does. You don’t know their struggles, their pain, their circumstances, and on that front pew is the best place that anyone (no matter what they’ve done) could be every week!
When we enter into relationship with Christ, we begin a journey toward holiness and sanctification that is never quite completed. We become more mature as the years pass…as we learn from mistakes and turn from old habits and ways…but we are never fully righteous until that day when we see the face of our Savior. Until that day, we must keep on keepin’ on, and we can’t be tearing one another down with our words and preconceptions about each others’ lives! Romans 8:1 reminds us of something that we sometimes forget: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” There is always grace, friends. Always. And we must be just as willing to give it as we are to receive it!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am so grateful for the truth of Your Word. I love knowing that through it, I am able to receive gentle, loving correction. So I ask You now, Lord, to forgive me of the times when I have been so quick to judge and to turn my nose in the air when I have seen people in the midst of struggle with sin. Help me to remember the “log” in my own eye, before I point out the “speck” in someone else’s. Help me to love others the way that You have loved me. Amen.