Beve and I spent some time yesterday who was grousing about how, via the media and in person, he hears a certain negative response from non-believers. A response of intolerance that's clothed in this one specific phrase:W
"But Christians are such hypocrites."
He was defensive and angry about these words, pointing his fingers back at those who would say such a thing. And I know that, having heard this sentence aimed at me more than once--more than a hundred times--in my life, it's easy to feel offended and defensive. Such feelings are knee-jerk, aren't they? I've always thought it somewhat difficult that Christians are actually the only people in the world who are called intolerant when we believe this world is not our home and therefore, not the end-all, be-all of all things, when we make choices that are counter-cultural.
However, this sentence, "Christians are such hypocrites," should elicit a completely different reaction in us.
"It does not depend on human desire or effort, but on God's mercy. ..For scripture said to Pharoah, 'I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my Name be proclaimed in all the earth.' " (Romans 9: 16-17) The story in Exodus--even in Pharoah--is FOR US! God's master plan is to display His power in us. His power.
Without Him, or without giving over to Him, we're every bit as much hypocrites are the people next door. We raise our voices in anger against those who we should love, we are so busy condemning practices those who practice such things never know that there is One who SAVES. Who doesn't change change behavior by our effort, but by coming to us, forgiving us, and giving us NEW LIFE. Each of us has experienced this. Each of us has been reborn in Him. Each of us has HIM indwelling.
And still we fail. We are hypocrites. We come before Him in need of forgiveness.
Sometimes it helps me to imagine the story of the woman caught in adultery. I think of the great 'sins' of this generation: homosexuality, those who choose abortion. I imagine us as those who bring these people before Jesus. I imagine Him writing in the sand. Finally saying, "If any one of you is without sin, let him/her cast the first stone."
Then I imagine the roles reversed. I imagine some world in which my greatest sin, whatever it is, is the one we have decided is the one worth stoning. I am the one taken by my upper arms and dragged to him by an angry crowd. People yelling at me, protesting, fighting, taking up the cause. And standing before Jesus where they say I should be stoned. My heart is pounding straight out of my chest. I am beyond humiliated, beyond any fear I've ever felt. Certain of death. And even afraid of the silence of this man writing in the sand.
Then I hear the soft--but strangely carrying--words He says to the crowd about them being without sin casting stones at me. I cannot raise my head, so certain am I that a rock will hit me any second. Instead I hear the shuffling of feet walking away until only this man, this Jesus, and I are left.
"Look at me, "He says. I raise my head.
"Does no one condemn you?"
I shake my head. "No, sir," I whisper.
"Then neither do I," He answers. "Go and leave your life of sin."
And I can. I can leave my life of sin after such a moment. A moment so bathed in blinding love I'd never imagined it. THIS is what will change me.
This is what changes all of us.
Yes, I'm a hypocrite at moments. We all are.
HE never is.
And the more He is given rein (and reign) in my life, the less a hypocrite I will be.