I am a hypocrite and have been one all my life. I console myself with the fact that likely you are too. I mean, it is only natural. We live in a culture of pretense and self justification and me being in job interview mode I feel like I am always covering over my weaknesses and extolling my strengths, puffing myself up like a peacock to make me seem more beautiful than I really am. Maybe some of this is more insecurity but hypocrisy is there too. I’ll prove it.
Yesterday, as I sat and listened to the sermon at my church I caught myself praying a Pharisaical prayer. It was abstract and not really directed at anyone but there was a smug self congratulatory feel about it which is kind of embarassing (so I’m blogging about it). My pastor was preaching from Ephesians 5 and talking about the need to run from immorality, sexual sin, greed of every kind, and as he used certain examples I found myself saying in my heart, “I’m glad that isn’t my struggle” And then I thought of the Pharisee in Luke 18 who prays,”God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get (Luke 18:11-12).” This Pharisee and I did the same thing. Instead of coming before the altar to come clean and be made right before God and others, I used my time in church to extol my own devotion and to tell myself (and God) that I’m not that bad. The truth is I’m every bit as proud and petty as the next guy(or girl).
The tax collector for his part prayed simply, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Nopretense, no pretend holiness or self justification. The tax collector knew his sin and collusion with the powers. He did not look around or congratulate himself for showing up for worship but confessed sin and reached for God.
So I am a hypocrite in the house of God, offering pretense instead of praise. I don’t think I’m alone. Insecurity, pride and need to paint myself in the best light is something others feel too. But I am not a COMPLETE hypocrite. I caught myself and confessed it. I share this with you not to congratulate myself but to illustrate something I have learned: To the extent that I am not a hypocrite it is because I have experienced the Grace of God.
I am not thumbing my nose at fellow hypocrites declaring, “There but by the grace of God go I.” I am exclaiming a lived reality! When you know the grace of God, his full acceptance and love for us, you don’t have to pretend anymore. I don’t need to trust my own virtue and devotion or prove myself to God. I need only come and throw myself at God’s mercy. My worth is not bound up with being better than my fellow sinner; I am loved extravagantly by the God of love.