Have you noticed how adamantly we declare our disgust and hatred for hypocrisy? We are willing to be known for a lot of things but no one wants to be known as a hypocrite. I have no idea how many times through the years I’ve had someone say something to the affect, “I know I’m not doing right or living like a Christian should, but at least I’m not a hypocrite, pretending to be something I’m not.” What is even more amazing to me is how we in this country hold actors in high regard, even listening to them when they give advise on political matters or on insurance or investment programs, when the word hypocrite originally just meant to be an actor. It came from the practice of actors on the stage having difficulty being heard in the huge arenas that were built in that day, when there was no sound system to project one’s voice. Their solution was to wear a mask that identified them as the character they wanted to portray and the mask had a megaphone type projection of the voice so that it enhanced their ability to be heard. The word hypocrite then came to mean, “Wearing a mask.”
Not long ago I was talking with a man about coming to church and his relationship with God. He was trying to explain to me why he wouldn’t be coming to church or even make a commitment to Christ. In the process of the discussion he declared, “I can spot a hypocrite from a mile away.” I responded that it was good to be able to spot a hypocrite. But I said to him with a smile, “I like to think I’m pretty good at spotting hypocrites myself, but what bothers me so much is that too often the one I spot is in the mirror.” I don’t know if he got the point I was trying to get him to see or not. I was hoping he might realize that he could look closely into his mirror as well and spot a hypocrite.
I know many are thinking, “well that’s not true of me. I’m sure not a hypocrite, so how could I spot one in the mirror?” Are you sure you aren’t a hypocrite at times? Like most other people, I think I’m pretty real and am the same person no matter who I’m talking with, where I am or what the situation. But I catch myself taking on a different attitude depending on the crowd. I’m guessing that the only person who ever lived that was completely real is Jesus. His actions and attitudes remained the same no matter who was around. There was never a problem with people hearing him teach in one area of the world one day and then hearing him somewhere else under different circumstances and the messages not harmonizing. He was the word, become flesh. He was God in a man’s body. His teaching and his life revealed God’s will and message to all people.
Are you the same person all the time? Do you act differently when some people are around? Are you the same person when your parents or your wife is around as you are when out with the guys? Think about the young man who out with his friends has a foul mouth, cursing, swearing, using the name of God in wrong ways. But take that same young man and put him into the presence of his mom or his grandparents and most of the time, I’ve noticed that his language changes immediately. He can clean up his speech in a matter of seconds. I’ve had people tell me, “I have such a habit of cursing that I don’t even think about it when I say those words that you find offensive. But I will ask them if they use the same words with their mother or grandmother. Most of the time they admit that in their presence it changes. They suddenly can keep their mouth clean and not use a single word that is crude,vulgar or distasteful. Yet they will say they aren’t hypocrites!
It is certainly true that God wants us all to be real all the way to the bone. I love the story of John the Baptist. If there was ever a man who told it like it was and who was the same every day with every one, John would be my nomination. No wonder Jesus said, “Of those born of woman, there is none greater than John.” I offer the simple challenge to me and you, let’s be real, today and each day we live. The self I am is far better than the one I pretend to be but know I’m not.