The Importance of Authenticity in an Age of Hypocrisy
If you share your faith on a regular basis, you have heard the following more than once, “Christians are hypocrites.” Some non-believers use that phrase to derail the conversation. For insight on how to answer this objection within the conversation, see Brock Anderson’s blog.
However, that objection should also be a reminder to examine our lives. After all, I don’t want my hypocrisy to interfere with someone seeing Jesus.
The New Testament word hypocrisy means giving a performance. It is pretending to be someone you are not. Hypocrisy is not just a stumbling block for non-believers, but it is a sin before God.
Jesus reserved his harshest language for it:
- “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9
- “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27
Jesus revealed the reason He hates hypocrisy is the same reason non-believers do. No one likes a fake. On top of that, unchecked hypocrisy can prevent others from seeing authentic Christianity.
But here is the truth, we ALL are guilty of hypocrisy at one time or another, including Christians. We all have tried to appear as something we are not at different points of our lives.
The issue is not trying to be perfect all the time. The issue is how do we keep hypocrisy from becoming a pattern or stronghold in our lives which robs our witness of its power?
The answer is to cultivate a lifestyle of authenticity. In other words, endeavoring to live a life that is genuine, unpretentious, and real. What you see is what you get.
How do we do that?
1. Live before an audience of One.
In 2 Corinthians 5:9, Paul declared his greatest ambition in life, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.” This focus of living before the Lord empowered Paul to overcome the fear of the opinions of others, which is a major cause of hypocrisy.
Because God always sees everything, seeking to please Him alone ensures that our private lives are consistent with our public lives, our demeaner on Monday matches Sunday, and that our behavior at work is congruent with our behavior at church. Consistency is a powerful witness.
2. Surround yourself with a few trusted “truth-tellers.”
Hypocrisy is very hard to detect in ourselves because it is rooted in pride, the self-satisfaction we experience when we think of ourselves more highly than we ought.
Because of our propensity towards pride, we need to have friends that don’t just tell us what we want to hear but tell us what we need to hear. I don’t mean someone who is constantly critical, but someone who is not afraid to speak the truth in love. Proverbs 27:5-6 reminds us, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” A trusted confidant can help us recognize our “blind spots” and encourage us as we steer away from hypocrisy towards authenticity.
3. Focus on your sins rather than the sins of others.
One of the hallmark symptoms of hypocrisy is judging others. Our pride blinds us to our own faults while bringing everyone else’s into sharp focus. Jesus addresses this in Matthew 7:3-5:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Taking the log out of our own eye involves embracing the fact that we are all “a work in progress” and continually examining ourselves before the Lord and responding with confession and repentance. Our constant prayer ought to be the same as the Psalmist’s in Psalm 139:23-24:
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Perhaps the next great move of God will occur when believers wholeheartedly turn from the path of pretending to following Jesus “in the way everlasting!” Only then will the world see the true power of God made manifest not through our self-righteousness, but in His righteousness made possible in our lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.
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