Welcoming the Hypocrites

fishDonald Sensing has a good post about the all-too-common accusation against Christians, that they are hypocrites:

The hypocrisy excuse for staying away from church has got to be the oldest there is. Which only proves what Mark Twain observed, “When you don’t want to do something, any excuse will do.” And to borrow one of Yogi Berra’s malapropisms, If people don’t want to come to church, nobody’s going to stop them.
 
But I say, “Hooray for hypocrites!” If you’re a hypocrite, you’re just my guy or gal.

Yes, the accusation of hypocrisy is freely administered by those who, in their righteous indignation, would never darken the door of their nearest church. To be sure, there is no shortage of hypocrisy in Christianity; in fact, there seems to be a rather large supply well-distributed across the human race, religious or not. I’ve had a few thoughts of my own on the subject, contained in a long-winded riff on refrigerator magnets, here.

Sensing nails the issue beautifully:

Because hypocrisy requires the hypocrite to believe in something or someone outside himself. Hypocrisy requires an aspiration to something higher or better than oneself. That is the meaning of the folk saying, “Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.” Hypocrisy is an imperfect, deficient attempt to be better…

It is deceit that makes hypocrisy what it is. The true hypocrite wants others to think better of him/her than is actually justified. Absent this deceit, there is no hypocrisy, just error or human frailty. That’s what the hypocrisy-excuse people don’t understand – or pretend not to understand – about church people. What may appear to be church people’s hypocrisy is almost always just simple failure to meet the standards of our faith rather than deceit. Why? Because the standard is so high:

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt. 5:28).

But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual transgression, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Mt. 5:32).

There are many such examples. So I say that if our churches are filled with such “hypocrites,” then let’s have many more. Vice is easy, virtue is hard. It’s no hypocrisy to fall short of a very high standard and such an excellent goal. And I would suggest that the hypocrisy-excuse people have largely chosen the easy way over the hard way, and choose to call that virtue. So who are the hypocrites? Well, we always have room for one more.

The irony in this situation is that the accusation of hypocrisy often comes from someone incapable of hypocrisy — for the simple reason that you cannot fall short of a standard which you do not have:

Thankfully I have known very few non-hypocritical people. They were insufferable. They were entirely self centered, self directed, self oriented, self focused and just plain purely selfish. They recognized no cause, entity or belief higher than themselves, their own desires, wants or needs. You can see, I’m sure, that it is impossible for such people to act hypocritically because they are always looking out for No. 1 in every situation. They never pretend they are acting in someone else’s interests. They don’t seek others’ approval because they don’t fundamentally care about others or what they think.

So don’t be a hypocrite — Check it out.

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2 thoughts on “Welcoming the Hypocrites

  1. During my college years (late 60’s), I recall visiting the Campus Christian Center and speaking to an Episcopal priest about religion. During our discussion, he said something which I have never forgotten.

    He asked me why, having been raised Christian, I chose not to attend church.

    I explained that, in my opinion, “churches are full of hypocrites”.

    He smiled gently and said: “Isn’t that where they belong?”

  2. The difference between hypocrisy and simple aspiration or putting your best foot forward is largely one of humility. The aspirant knows he does not succeed, and regrets it. The hypocrite believes he is quite all right. From the outside, it is difficult for any of us to tell which of the others is which. The accusation of hypocrisy, then, is an enormous arrogance, pretending to see into the hearts of others. It is such an arrogance that few should attempt the accusation without fear and trembling.

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