The guest speaker at our church yesterday gave a moving sermon on the topic of hypocrisy amongst Christians and the whole “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites” argument made by many in our culture. I’m not sure where we came up with the idea that church is or should be full of perfect people, but he hit the nail on the head when he said that hypocrisy isn’t a Christian problem, it’s a human problem.
We understand that we can’t live up to the standards set by God, so we create our own subset of rules and benchmarks and compete with one another. Hypocrisy ensues. None of us are as we should be.
So what is the antidote to all this nonsense of saying one thing and doing another? Humility.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”1 Peter 5:6-8
Clothing ourselves in humility, making the choice to practice it and cast all our fears onto Jesus keeps us where we need to be. When we are humble and childlike, there is no room for pretending to be someone we are not. Humility makes us authentic. In my notes I wrote down this bullet point:
“Pride is about pretending. Humility is about reality. Be courageous enough to be the real you.”
We’ve taken that last part and really run with it, but anything outside of God’s plan isn’t authentic, it’s phony. We’ve put people into a pecking-order, assuring ourselves there’s always someone below us somewhere. But the whole basis of the Gospel is that we don’t have to work our way up to God, He’s already made His way to us. Our job is to believe and receive and be so free from pride that we can’t help but to give it away.
Pride says cover and hide. Pride says I’ll figure this out on my own. Pride shuts the faucet off so love can’t flow.
But faking it till you make it is a dead-end road. We are faced every day with the reality that without Jesus, we are all hypocrites and frauds. My sin may be different than yours, but it still separates me from God and community. That’s what the enemy aims to do, keep us soaking in our pride and feeble abilities until we are totally isolated.
Peter warned us to watch out, because the lion is prowling about seeking victims to devour. How do lions trap their prey? By isolating them.
Humility isn’t for the weak. It isn’t thinking poorly of ourselves or denying our achievements, it’s a command to be real before God and man and realize that we are all pretty much in the same boat. Humility makes us face our true selves, but with the knowledge that God loves us and wants to use us. It’s a call to come out of the shadows and deal with the truth, as painful as it may be, because nothing ever gets healed in the dark.
Is the church full of hypocrites? Of course it is. We have lost our desire to be ‘sober-minded’ about the things that threaten to isolate and destroy us. When we clothe ourselves in humility, we are putting on protection from that prowling lion. We are brought out into the light and at the feet of Jesus who knows our sorrows and struggles and cares for us just the same.
And what is His desire for us?
“…to perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.”1 Peter 5:10
Settle the craziness Jesus! Settle our hearts so that they can focus on receiving what You freely offer. Humility in place of pride does that beautifully. It’s no small task to go out into a world that prides itself on pride and be humble. We don’t have to fake it, we don’t have to stay in the shadows pretending everything is just fine. The wisdom from above is “without hypocrisy” (James 3:17) and it literally means we are not putting on an act.
We have to put the masks down. The world doesn’t care if we are perfect, the world just needs authentic disciples who are available and willing to live out authentic lives. Think about it: do you get mad when a friend or loved one struggles? Of course not. But the longer one lingers in pride and recklessness, the worse things get.
We are all hypocrites. But we don’t have to be swallowed up by it. Humility clears the way for real, lasting accomplishments, the God-ordained ones that we could never pull off on our own.