Hypocrisy – something to aim for and it is very good
I may jump around a bit today, just wanted to get that out of the way. Now to prove it true…
Politics has well and truly ramped up pre-election so our normally divided and polarizing rhetoric has clearly been upgraded to DEFCON 3. Let’s just face it – we aren’t very nice people some of the time. And while this has probably always been true I’m going to say that for me this election has become overtaken by a culture of fact-checking. Words like truth, and lies… and hypocrisy are flying all over the place.
That’s the one I trigger on. I trigger on it for many reasons.
It’s a word of attack and counter-strike, it’s not a word that is used to build bridges or seek understanding across strongly opposed views and perspectives. When you call someone a hypocrite you are not seeking peace, but violence.
It is also almost always used by hypocrites about other hypocrites. This is tipping my hat a little – I’ll come back to it later. But suffice it to say it’s a word used when you do not intend to engage in self-reflection or growth. You are only interested in pointing out other’s faults. (This might be a good time to talk about logs and specks ala the Gospel of Matthew but I’m not going to do so other than to say please note that in that text that the writer is not saying do not judge at all… but makes sure you look at yourself first, and then makes sure that your judgment of the other is in the interest of building them up, not tearing them down. And that is a bit of freedom of interpretation but it is how I read it.)
I could go on but it’s time to jump again.
You see here is my big issue. We are all hypocrites. Okay – maybe not all, you have to have a strong (almost creedal) sense of purpose in order to be a hypocrite. Someone without proclamation doesn’t run the risk of living in contrast to their stated vision or mission or identity. But I’m turning now to reflection on discipleship from the perspective of one who seeks to follow after Jesus Christ. That is always my purpose at some point in these blog posts. And while I think some of what I say here is true beyond those who share such conviction, my thoughts are targeted to people who share that perspective. People who aspire to follow Jesus are hypocrites. We just are – and if someone tells you otherwise, then they are in need of serious log-in-eye removal.
I read a great reflection that helped me see this a long time ago by Martin Marty from the University of Chicago. But sadly I can’t find it anymore. He basically took us back to the Greek roots of the word hypocrite. That the word had its root in theater (amazing how much theology traces its roots to Greek theater), and as I recall it the word was used of someone who was playing a roll. You were a hypocrite because you weren’t actually that person – you were just trying to be seen as that person.
Do you see where I’m going with this? As followers of Jesus we are trying to be like Christ, we are trying to live in such a way that people see Christ living in us and through us. We are trying… but none of us fully live up to the full image of Christ.
And that is good.
We cannot call it good only when we attain perfection or 93% of it as the case may be. To try – to aspire – to yearn for our better selves is good… very good. We are – follower of Jesus Christ – aspiring to the life of Christ. I will say this part for myself alone and leave you to your own reflections.
I fall short.
My life is a dusty and dinged version of the life of Christ. Or maybe it’s the other way around… I’m reading the James a lot in preparation for this month’s sermons and it’s very clear there that we are to work (not just think, not just talk about.. but actually put our lives out there working towards our vision and mission) on behalf of the poor at the expense of the rich. (I’m not trying to go political with that, but it’s hard not to at the moment.) My life looks far too rich for James’ liking. I’m aware of that. It’s a part of my hypocrisy. I’m also okay with it. I still believe Jesus looks on me and calls me good – just as God did that first day… second day… third day…. every day.
I’m a hypocrite and most likely, you are too. Thanks be to God, so be it.