Culture At Large

The mystery of hypocrisy

Andy Rau

Why is hypocrisy such a common problem for the church? Why do otherwise sincere Christians let serious sin build up quietly in their lives when they, of all people, should know better? Mark Lauterbach has an excellent post on hypocrisy in the church at the Gospel Driven Life blog.

Lauterbach suggests that hypocrisy works its way into our lives when we become too concerned with what others think of us, and let that overshadow our desire to be righteous before God:

...I must continually war against hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is rooted in my heart drifting to a false Gospel. If I am afraid to let others see the reality of sin in my life, my marriage, my children -- it is because I am a slave to the god of "the esteem of man" and that god is a cruel tyrant. I have watched sin gain strength in my life and in the lives of others because they were too committed to their good image. Marriage conflicts became roots of bitterness -- resistant children became hard hearted rebels -- occasional lust became "addiction" to pornography -- all because they are more committed to their image than to the truth about their sin in the presence of the Savior and his people.

He sees another common reason for hypocrisy as well, when Christians publically advertise an activity or theology or lifestyle that promises to bring people closer to Christ, and then feel that an admission of sin will invalidate the message that they've been preaching.

Why is it so hard to avoid hypocrisy?

Hypocrisy is frustrating because the solution to it--confession and repentance--is so easy, yet we're nevertheless willing to go to enormous lengths to avoid doing so. Think about it--if you're a member of a healthy church community and are harboring a secret sin, you have a lot of good reasons to go straight to your pastor and confess that sin. You know that:

* God will forgive you. * Your pastor, family, and church community will likely support you should you need help overcoming the sin. * Your life will be immensely more enjoyable without the stress of hiding a sin from everybody you know. * The longer you wait to confess it, the harder things are going to be when it is inevitably found out.

Yet despite these reasons to repent, we find it amazingly hard to do so. You might think that simple embarassment causes people to cover up their sins, but can that really explain our illogical aversion to repentance? In the case of especially serious issues like sexual addiction, we often pass up the chance to deal with the sin early on (when there's much less embarassment or impact on the community), and instead let it fester for years until it finally grows big enough to wreck entire families. Christians know of the forgiving power of their God, and they also know about the consesquences of hidden sin, yet they choose to hide rather than confess it.

How many times have you read about a disgraced pastor or church member or leader and thought: "If only he'd confessed that sin on his own and sought help, people would've gladly forgiven and rallied around him--but now that he's been found out, his entire ministry is in shambles"? What is this power that keeps us from public repentance? Is it, as Lauterbach suggests, a misplaced obsession with what other people think of us? A fear that any admission of sin will destroy our message or witness? Why do we hide our sins from a forgiving God and a loving community of believers?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Faith