I Am a Hypocrite

The whole world looks like wood to me.

Oh, I hear the snickers… the put-downs, the wisecracks. And you know what? I don’t care. They can laugh all they want. What good are their opinions anyway? Splinters in their eyes… every one of them. What chance do they have of seeing me clearly anyway? They’re nuts. They’ve got splinters everywhere.

“Hm… Coreman?”

“Yes.”

“Can I show you something?”

“Yeah, fine.”

“You see this mirror, here?”

“What are you talking about… that two-by-four?”

“You mean… this… two by four?”

“Where do you get that? And where did that mirror come from?”

“This board was IN your eye. See, it’s got a few of your eyelashes on it.”

“Well, what happened to all the stuff that was in your eye?”

“There wasn’t any… you were looking at this board.”

“oh.”

And everything falls apart. All my life I’ve been complaining with the best of them: “The Church is full of hypocrites!” Some of us complainers simply got fed up and left. Others were like me, and decided that the Church didn’t have to be full of hypocrites… those aren’t the real Christians anyway. So if we start a new church with real Christians, bingo. Hypocrite-free.

But now I’m holding this two-by-four in my hands. And I realize that, when I left the old crowd to start fresh, I inadvertently brought one hypocrite with me. And standing in front of the mirror now, it’s all too obvious.

Donald Miller is famous for saying, in his book Blue Like Jazz, that “I am the problem.” After spending numerous months gaining a reputation as a socially conscious activist and political protester, he realized that he should rather be protesting himself, holding up a cardboard sign emblazoned with those four self-incriminating words.

Roger Moran, the man indirectly responsible for sending hundreds of new readers to my blog last week, is guilty of blind antogonism and divisiveness within the Body of Christ. He pulled out his rhetorical claws, and went for the jugular.

He attacked with error. I, in turn, retaliated with accuracy. But it was not Truth. The Truth of Christ cannot be couched in retaliation, defensiveness and pride.

I was talking with my dad (a fellow pastor and fellow church-planter) last weekend about what it means to be a pastor. It dawned on me that, although God calls certain individuals to be pastors, he does not promise us extra righteousness, and he certainly does not expect us to find it on our own. And honestly, even a pastor who is paid full-time to do nothing but study, preach, pray, and shepherd his people has no real hope for a superior holiness. Yet that is what we have come to expect from our spiritual leaders. To be a cut above… a little lower than the angels, and a little higher than the bourgeoisie.

But not only is such a notion silly, it is reckless. Isn’t it obvious that pastors feel this pressure building up, this performance anxiety to be a poster-child of godliness?

In the end, I decided that all we have is humility. All we have is repentance, accountability, brokenness. We cannot be superior, nor should we strive to. There will always be lay people more surrendered than us, more prayerful than us, more obedient than us. And there will always be grievous mistakes in our lives, straining to be confessed. It is not until we give up our pride of position and let them out that we can welcome authenticity into our lives. Perfection awaits us in the by-and-by. Let’s embrace vulnerability and authenticity in the here-and-now.

Every church should have a perfect leader. We just have to let the Perfect Leader lead.


0 thoughts on “I Am a Hypocrite

  1. Right-o, my friend. Right-o!I can empathize with your sentiments, as I remember being overwhelmed with similar ones in the recent past. But I do hope you accept the fact that much of our preaching and teaching and writing takes the shape of the crises we are going through or have recently gone through, personal and large scale. The current state of the Western Church is a sad one. It is one of Biblical illiteracy, theological incompetence, moral license, crippled creativity, and rebellion. The phenomenon you are observing is not specific to pastors. Every pastor should strive to submit to Christ in everything and in every way.The Bible, not denominations or local churches, demands a certain standard. And it demands morally identical standard for all Christians. The only reason it appears that vocational pastors are trying to assert their superiority is that the world around them is so embarrassingly remedial in the outworking of their faith. “A city on a hill cannot be hidden,” even if that city is one person. The problem is not that the Church expects too much of their pastors. It’s that they surrender too little of themselves.You’ve said it till you’re blue in the face: we hire other people to be holy so we don’t have to. Well, people who hold this attitude (I’m referring to “them”, not you) couldn’t be more wrong. We all have to live up to God’s standard. What Western Christians have believed is the destructive lie that because we cannot, in our own strength, live up to God’s standards, we must not try. This attitude, in fact, has roots deep in historic Catholicism. This was the foundational ideology of monasticism. The reasoning went like this: “The biblical standard for the Christian, indeed the Christian community, is impossible for the majority of us. This must mean, then, that God’s intention is that a few devoted men give their lives to piety on our behalf. These “holy men” then will serve as ambassadors, representations, and intercessors of the entire Church.” This literally was, and in many cases, is the attitude of not only the Catholic church, but many mainline and Protestant churches. I still believe that evangelicals are the least guilty of this line of thinking. We get a lot of flack from the media, but the truth is that orthodox, evangelical Christians have done more for social justice, economic stewardship, personal evangelism, Biblical contextualization, and theological scholarship that any other so-called Christian sect in history. But, of course, let’s not forget that there are Godfearing evangelicals scattered throughout the Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Anglican churches as well.

  2. Right-o, my friend. Right-o!I can empathize with your sentiments, as I remember being overwhelmed with similar ones in the recent past. But I do hope you accept the fact that much of our preaching and teaching and writing takes the shape of the crises we are going through or have recently gone through, personal and large scale. The current state of the Western Church is a sad one. It is one of Biblical illiteracy, theological incompetence, moral license, crippled creativity, and rebellion. The phenomenon you are observing is not specific to pastors. Every pastor should strive to submit to Christ in everything and in every way.The Bible, not denominations or local churches, demands a certain standard. And it demands morally identical standard for all Christians. The only reason it appears that vocational pastors are trying to assert their superiority is that the world around them is so embarrassingly remedial in the outworking of their faith. “A city on a hill cannot be hidden,” even if that city is one person. The problem is not that the Church expects too much of their pastors. It’s that they surrender too little of themselves.You’ve said it till you’re blue in the face: we hire other people to be holy so we don’t have to. Well, people who hold this attitude (I’m referring to “them”, not you) couldn’t be more wrong. We all have to live up to God’s standard. What Western Christians have believed is the destructive lie that because we cannot, in our own strength, live up to God’s standards, we must not try. This attitude, in fact, has roots deep in historic Catholicism. This was the foundational ideology of monasticism. The reasoning went like this: “The biblical standard for the Christian, indeed the Christian community, is impossible for the majority of us. This must mean, then, that God’s intention is that a few devoted men give their lives to piety on our behalf. These “holy men” then will serve as ambassadors, representations, and intercessors of the entire Church.” This literally was, and in many cases, is the attitude of not only the Catholic church, but many mainline and Protestant churches. I still believe that evangelicals are the least guilty of this line of thinking. We get a lot of flack from the media, but the truth is that orthodox, evangelical Christians have done more for social justice, economic stewardship, personal evangelism, Biblical contextualization, and theological scholarship that any other so-called Christian sect in history. But, of course, let’s not forget that there are Godfearing evangelicals scattered throughout the Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Anglican churches as well.

  3. Beloved,Isn’t using moral license being creative? :)I definitely agree in principle. I don’t think it’s limited to holiness. I think a lot of people think their pastor is supposed to do their thinking for them too.Coreman,In our Sunday School class we had a mirror on the wall printed with the text, “I am the problem,” for probably a year. The problem is that it’s one of those things that is easy to acknowledge without really thinking about it.On some level everyone is probably a hypocrite. Since most Christians have a defined moral code, they just have more opportunities.

  4. Beloved,Isn’t using moral license being creative? :)I definitely agree in principle. I don’t think it’s limited to holiness. I think a lot of people think their pastor is supposed to do their thinking for them too.Coreman,In our Sunday School class we had a mirror on the wall printed with the text, “I am the problem,” for probably a year. The problem is that it’s one of those things that is easy to acknowledge without really thinking about it.On some level everyone is probably a hypocrite. Since most Christians have a defined moral code, they just have more opportunities.

  5. Excellent blog!Any attempt to reform, change, revive, etc. the church means that it needs to happen to me.I sense that pastors indeed have a large amount of pressure on them. Much of it is insecurity in themselves and fear of being a failure. They focus on what they can, or are unable to do, for the kingdom of God. Little emphasis is placed on being spiritual or seeking to be near God.And then, I look at myself and I see the same thing.None of us have our priorities right, and we all need a kick in the butt.

  6. Excellent blog!Any attempt to reform, change, revive, etc. the church means that it needs to happen to me.I sense that pastors indeed have a large amount of pressure on them. Much of it is insecurity in themselves and fear of being a failure. They focus on what they can, or are unable to do, for the kingdom of God. Little emphasis is placed on being spiritual or seeking to be near God.And then, I look at myself and I see the same thing.None of us have our priorities right, and we all need a kick in the butt.

  7. It’s so good to hear from all three of you guys. I have spent formative years in Springfield with each one of you, and you are still speaking truth to my heart… thank you.“There is none righteous. No, not one.”How easy that verse is to quote, and how hard it is to grasp!

  8. It’s so good to hear from all three of you guys. I have spent formative years in Springfield with each one of you, and you are still speaking truth to my heart… thank you.“There is none righteous. No, not one.”How easy that verse is to quote, and how hard it is to grasp!

  9. Shakedust-How true! The lost are not hypocrites for living sinfully. <>We are!<> And what’s funny is that they thoroughly enjoy pointing out our hypocrisy, saying something like, “See, you’re no different than me!” And you know, more often than not, we unfortunately puff up, get defensive, maybe even point our fingers at their sin, instead of thanking them for keeping us accountable. Lord, forgive us.tfalk-How right you are! It’s no wonder pastors succumb so often (more often than is made public) to sin in their lives, when they are expected to be CEOs rather than spiritual leaders. Pastors cannot be spiritual leaders unless we are spiritually, intimately, consistantly grounded in Christ through our personal prayer and devotional lives. We might be creative or even productive in terms of “getting ministry done”, but we ultimately will be setting our churches up for disappointment, dare I say, scandal, at some point down the road if we do not first and foremost remain faithful to our first love. <>Thank you<> for accentuating this crucial point.And Coreman-Thanks again for a great post.

  10. Shakedust-How true! The lost are not hypocrites for living sinfully. <>We are!<> And what’s funny is that they thoroughly enjoy pointing out our hypocrisy, saying something like, “See, you’re no different than me!” And you know, more often than not, we unfortunately puff up, get defensive, maybe even point our fingers at their sin, instead of thanking them for keeping us accountable. Lord, forgive us.tfalk-How right you are! It’s no wonder pastors succumb so often (more often than is made public) to sin in their lives, when they are expected to be CEOs rather than spiritual leaders. Pastors cannot be spiritual leaders unless we are spiritually, intimately, consistantly grounded in Christ through our personal prayer and devotional lives. We might be creative or even productive in terms of “getting ministry done”, but we ultimately will be setting our churches up for disappointment, dare I say, scandal, at some point down the road if we do not first and foremost remain faithful to our first love. <>Thank you<> for accentuating this crucial point.And Coreman-Thanks again for a great post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *