It is painfully evident that we all struggle with sin - but does that make us all hypocrites?
Whether it’s non-believers accusing the Church of being filled with hypocrites or believers feeling the burden of their own sin and shortcomings – this is a question worth looking at.
In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus, and only Jesus, uses a special term for the religious hypocrites of the day – “hypokritēs”
Vines Dictionary of Greek words gives us some insight into the use and meaning of this word:
"A stage-actor;" it was a custom for Greek and Roman actors to speak in large masks with mechanical devices for augmenting the force of the voice; hence the word became used metaphorically of "a dissembler, a hypocrite."
In this sense there are hypocrites throughout the world and, yes, in the Church. But the tired excuse of “I don’t go to church because there are hypocrites there” – is, just that, tired. As Christians though, it is true that we must be always on the alert that we do not find ourselves under this definition by Jesus. This prideful hypocrisy can be subtle and sneak up on us before we even know it. That’s not what we want the Church to look like.
|The Pharisee and the Tax Collector|
A sincere struggle with sin is different when we are honest about it (with ourselves and others) and, being remorseful, seek to be different. Our spiritual motivation is to be more like Christ but our human nature, what the Bible often refers to as “The flesh”, fights hard against us.
Jesus reminds His disciples of this in Matthew’s Gospel: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (26:41)
Later on Paul the Apostle elaborates on this dichotomy of the regenerated Christian.
“For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin…
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” Romans 7:14, 18-20
To be a hypocrite is to pretend or “act” to be something you are not (i.e. perfect or sinless or above others). To be a redeemed sinner is to be full of admitted short comings but also filled with a genuine, sincere and honest spirit seeking to obey God and be more like Christ each day. Perfection is not the opposite of hypocrisy nor is wallowing in your sinful nature.
If you want to avoid being a hypocrite look to the grace of God - it is the antidote to hypocrisy and pride. So take off the mask today and stop play-acting. Admit you’re not perfect, that you are, in fact, irreparably broken - then dive into the grace of God as He saves you from your sin and then transforms you each day into the likeness of Jesus.