A popular political cartoon has a man holding two signs.
On one: “No Mask Mandate! My body. My choice.”
On the second: “No Abortion After 6 Weeks. Her body. My choice.”
This is, of course, hypocritical. How can you plead for freedom from government regulation at times, and for it at others? Yet, the cartoon man seems blissful in ignoring this inconsistency. He’s made his mind up on both issues, and nothing will persuade him otherwise, even a charge of hypocrisy.
However, it’s the Christian’s job to always be aware of when they earn the label “hypocrite.”
Personally speaking, one of the most painful times for me as a Christian is when I discover that something I’ve said or done doesn’t line up with what I profess to believe. It’s on such occasions that something is exposed in my heart. Maybe a prejudice, assumption, or knee-jerk judgment. I can rush to defend myself, which is human. I can also linger with the embarrassment and dig deeper, which is Christian.
Perhaps this is what Peter did when Paul exposed his hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14). Paul called him out for not fully respecting Gentile Christians. When powerful Jewish Christians entered the room, he cozied up to them, leaving the others behind. Maybe, after Paul cried “Hypocrite,” Peter asked himself a question.
“Why do I say I believe in the equality of all Christians, but show favoritism to those with power?”
Being exposed reveals our need for such personal honesty and introspection. We may think we know what we believe, but why do we hold it? Particularly, why do we hold some beliefs so passionately and defend them so loudly and angrily at times?
It’s exploring why I believe what I do that is the most difficult, because it may expose my pretenses and prejudices. But that exposure may also lead to repentance, changed direction, and new/closer relationships.
Maybe that’s the hope for our faith as we navigate the seas of controversy today. If we’re serious about following Jesus, we simply must probe deeper into why we believe and act as we do. Christians thinking critically will be confronted by uncomfortable questions. (Just ask Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by the way.)
Why do we say our church doors are open, but set up regulations as to how open they really are?
Why do we affirm the dignity and basic human rights of all, but restrict who has a voice in church policy setting?
Why do we believe we should forgive those who offend us, but still hold grudges?
Why do we advocate for ministries of justice and compassion, but pass policies and budgets aimed at institutional maintenance?
Why do we say we value inclusiveness and diversity, but separate from those who are not like us or with whom we disagree?
Why do we say we care about the climate, but want more oil and cheaper gas prices?
Having the humility and honesty to ask such questions is a virtue we must cultivate. Perhaps in just reading over the above list a “yes, but…” entered your mind. If we don’t make such questioning a practice, though, how will we know if what we believe comes more from a personal bias than from the heart of Jesus?
In church as well as society, we may expose our hypocrisy when we protest loudly about something but don’t question our decibel level.
The Pharisees didn’t take too kindly to being called out by Jesus. We Christian hypocrites don’t either. But once the anger passes, maybe repentance, grace, and empathy will emerge.