an antidote to hypocrisy

an antidote to hypocrisy
image by dall.e 2

The temptation today was to start this entry with the lines “A spectre is haunting Christianity – a spectre of hypocrisy”. Yes, that would be after the famous opening line of Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, which I lean on today to share a lesson I have learnt these past two weeks, that is, a lesson about the hypocritical nature of modern-day Christianity. Yet again, I felt that the opening would be too cringe, preachy and a cliché … thence (I had to), I will instead attempt to tackle this pseudo-accusation I have set before you. 

As I do so, I will begin by sharing one of my favourite hymns titled “Chief of Sinners though I be”, written after the verses in 1 Timothy 15:16:

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Nonetheless, for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering as a pattern for those who should hereafter believe in Him to life everlasting” 

This is a verse written by the Apostle Paul who, for the non-Christians among us, was a man who persecuted Christians until he had an encounter with Jesus himself. From this, Paul, whose name was formerly Saul, turned his life around and became one of the greatest Christian evangelists evident in his 13 books (out of 27) in the new testament of the Bible. 

So when I first came across this verse I paused and thought to myself, “What title shall I assign myself if “Chief of sinners” is what Paul gets, a man who said,

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8)?

Clearly, I must be the “Supreme leader of sinners”, the “Master General of malefactors”, and the “Transcendent Empress of transgressors”.

I say this with no pride but shame, yet this shame is not without remedy. 

Nevertheless, let us begin with the shame… which arises from the accusations that my mind places before me, like the devil places before God – reminders that my flawedness is unending and my sin only abounding. It is a deeply hidden shame that I often wonder whether others feel it too. So I turn to you to ask whether you ever feel that though all mankind sins, your rate of sin per hour is a little higher. I wonder, my dear reader, whether you ever feel that your lies are a little darker, your slothfulness… deeper, your pride… higher, your hate… heavier, your sadness… gloomier, your envy… louder, your impatience… keener.

Certainly, I do. 

Moreover, today, among many of the days I feel this way, these thoughts have been formidable. Yet amidst the avalanche of my shame and guilt, where the weight of my sins present, past, and future threatened to bury me… I unearthed an unexpected antidote. 

Therefore, in true LinkedIn-esque fashion (I wish I could post this on there), I am happy to announce that I have received an answer to a longstanding prayer, a thorn whose removal I have pleaded with the LORD since my days as a zygote Christian. This struggle is something I shared with you last year in one of my entries, where I detailed my difficulty with forgiving others… thence (I promise this is the last time), you may wonder, what does shame have to do with forgiveness?

Simply, shame is a tool that the LORD can use to incite mercy in us.

I am in no way claiming that God stirred up these feelings of disgrace in me. On the contrary, I know that the exact source of my reproach is the devil, the accuser, pulling from a 23-year-long book of my iniquities… looking for unhealed wounds to poke about. But as the Bible reads in Romans 8:28

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 

God has used this reproach for my good by exciting mercy in me. He has reminded me that the accusations brought before me were made obsolete by Jesus’ death and resurrection… and because of that, I am called to forgive others as He forgave me. Today, in the throes (I wish this was me being my usual dramatic self) of abashment, God created an opportunity for me to release all the tens, maybe hundreds, of individuals that I held in the prison of my mind since God-knows-when. And for that, I am grateful.

I am grateful that God revealed my own hypocrisy before He led me to see, with an empathetic yet sober clarity, why it is that so many individuals are repelled by the church today. It is because we hoard up the mercy Christ showed to us, so we clog a system which was designed to have compassion flow through us and unto others. 

We bask in God’s embrace, yet wield our tongues with uncaring grace, unkind to Christians and non-believers in equal measure. We plead for God's pardon day by day, yet tally the trespasses of others along our way. We call out “Abba, Father” to God in our confessionals, yet deafen our ears to the cries of repentance from others. We fortify our circles with those we deem Christian, forsaking the struggling souls and the seekers of faith beyond our line.  

In doing so, we decelerate the message of the gospel, which is that Jesus died for each and every one of us. And while Christians’ mercies have an embarrassingly low limit, God’s compassion always approaches and exceeds infinity, and it is knocking on your heart today, my dear reader. I pray that God’s mercy pulls at the strings of your heart that you may either come to believe that there is a portion of it for you too, or that you may let it overflow from your cup and unto others.