How to Stop Being a Hypocrite
How to Stop Being a Hypocrite
If someone wants to attack Christianity, the first arrow they pull out is that we’re a bunch of hypocrites. “You say you stand for morality and righteousness, but the people you vote for are totally immoral and unrighteous. You say you’re all about love, but it seems like you’re always hating on people just for being who they are. You preach against pornography and adultery, but the statistics for Christians using pornography and Christians committing adultery are pretty much the same as everyone else. You’re just not being real.”
And in a lot of cases, that accusation is absolutely true. For one thing, Christians tend to act different when we’re around other Christians than we do when we’re not. Maybe you’ve heard the old joke, “Why do you always take two Baptists when you go fishing? Because if you take one, he’ll drink all your beer.” It’s true! We feel the need to be someone we’re not when we’re around other Christians.
And then on top of that, we feel the need to be a good witness when we’re not around Christians. We feel the need to pretend that life is perfect, and we don’t have any problems, because if someone sees a Christian with a lot of problems? They might not want to become a Christian!
As a result, we’re basically always pretending to be someone we’re not. And that’s exhausting! So some Christians get tired of the whole charade, and decide to go the opposite direction. They just let it all hang out. They’ll share every dirty detail about their lives until you’re crying out, “TMI! TMI! I didn’t want to know that! Ephesians 5:12! Some things are too shameful even to mention! You gotta keep some of that to yourself!”
So there are two extremes Christians lean toward: suppressing and spewing. Most Christians suppress the truth about themselves, but some Christians spew way too much about themselves. So how do we avoid those extremes? How do we stop being suppressive hypocrites without becoming self-indulgent spewers?
In 2 Corinthians, Paul models something very different from both of those extremes: healthy transparency. Look at how he’s both bluntly-honest and God-honoring when he talks about his struggles:
We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed — beyond our strength — so that we even despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:8-11)
If every Christian was like Paul, no one could ever accuse us of being hypocrites. We just need to pursue four qualities he displayed. Paul was…
Paul says, “We despaired of life itself.” Pastors aren’t supposed to talk like that! We’re supposed to be cheerful and positive all the time. But Paul’s not hiding his weakness. That word “despaired” literally means “no passage.” Whatever it was that was weighing him down beyond his strength, Paul felt like there was no exit. No escape. No eject button. No way out. If you’re as authentic as Paul nobody can call you a hypocrite. Just as long as you’re also…
Paul says, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death, but that was so we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead.” He’s confident that there’s a purpose for the tough times in life. It’s to make us get to the end of our rope until we’re desperate, and we’re forced to start leaning on God, instead of ourselves. People who are desperately dependent don’t have the time or energy to be hypocrites. But at the same time we’re also…
Paul says, “He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again.” That’s so hopeful! But it’s not blind optimism. Hypocrites tend to spout naively positive mantras. “This isn’t a setback, it’s a comeback!” … “I’m too blessed to be stressed!” Paul knew that God’s deliverance didn’t necessarily mean safety, security, and comfort. When he was in prison facing execution he said, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). For Paul, deliverance meant fulfilling God’s purpose in life or death, and Paul had confident hope that God would make that happen. Because he was also…
Paul wasn’t sharing his struggles with the Corinthians just to get things off his chest. He wasn’t asking them to pray, just to put his burden on them. He says, “He will deliver us again while you join in helping us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gift that came to us through the prayers of many.” He knows that God often waits to answer prayers until there are more people praying, because then more people will be personally involved in the situation. More people will see him respond to their requests. More people will give him glory. Then more people will trust him and more people will be blessed by him.
When you care more about the welfare of the people around you than you do about your own, it’s impossible to be a hypocrite.