Have you ever known someone who says one thing and does another? Yeah, we all know that person and we have all been that person!
At the core I think we have a fairly serious issue with hypocrisy-especially as people of faith. And I think that’s a bit of a problem. It’s a problem because it:
Hurts our credibility (lacks authenticity)
Harms our message (loses trust)
Halts our progress (long-lost influence and followers)
Jesus actually said it long before we all experienced it, long before it was a colloquial phrase, but there was a group of people-religious elites and insiders -who Jesus reserved that word (hypocrite) for the most. Here’s one of many things he said on the matter:
3 So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. Matthew 23:3
Actually this entire chapter in the book of Matthew is reserved for Jesus’ thoughts on hypocrisy and I’ll include a few more zingers… just for fun:
- 4 “They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.” DANG.
- 5 “Everything they do is for show.” ANYONE? ANYONE?
- 15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell[f] you yourselves are!” WHOOPS!
- 23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[g] but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.” OUCH!
- 27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” YIKES!
All of this… FROM ONE CHAPTER. And finally, one more from Matthew 15, just because it’s another of my favorites; it says this:
‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.-Matthew 15:8
That last one is one of my favorites, not because I like to use it as a weapon against others, but rather because it so often describes me…
I serve at a church that is filled with literally every sort of person.
Gay, straight, black, white, asian, latino…
Alcoholic, heroin addict, homeless, mentally ill…
Every weekend I greet these people-that’s my job actually-literally I am charged with leading the team of greeters… I am the CGO… the Chief Greeting Officer.
But more than that,during the week I sit and talk with them, pray with them and try to direct them to services and programs for their daily needs.
And then sometimes I just sit with them in the church service-especially our Saturday night service at 530pm.
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of watching the message from the front row immediately beside my friend Kristen who apparently suffers from some form of schizophrenia and speed addiction.
You see, I’ll be brutally honest with you right from the get go: when I meet these people on campus, one of my very first gut reactions is:
What are the smoothest and quickest ways I can dismiss this individual (and escort them off the lot)…?
It’s horrible that I think this way, I know. Fortunately, most of the time, right after that thought I have another one that creeps in causing this excellent tension. I believe this thought comes from years of hearing Bible stories, going to church and finally reading the Bible for myself. The second thought sounds more like this:
Don’t you understand these are the VERY people Christ came to seek and to save? You have a prime opportunity and indeed mandate to love them, welcome them and serve them in the best way possible. Remember that. Now go…
Another time I sat on the steps of the building which lead right up to the worship service, with a transgender prostitute. Literally. And no, that’s not my assumption or my categorization of this person it was merely the reality of where our church community is located and the types of people we meet and serve.
I sat there with him/her and again thought to myself:
Holy crap here I am sitting with this person filling out a prayer card while people are already pouring in to attend service-it’s kind of a scene…
I was obviously worried about how it looked to others. I was thinking about the perceptions of those other folks who just come a little more “cleaned up” to church. Honestly, I was also worried about this individual making it up the stairs into the church service… I mean God forbid someone comes to church who might actually need to be there!
Once more the tension crept in with a voice saying:
This is my son, this is my dearly beloved child… love them, welcome them, serve them as I have served them and as I have served you.
In short, this church, this community, this neighborhood has forced me to square up with what I say I believe more than anything in my whole life (2nd possibly only to raising small children!).
I’ve been fortunate enough to have these belief system gut checks on a nearly weekly basis. Can you say the same thing? If not, what do you need to do in order to surround yourself with opportunities of greater dissonance like I’ve described above?
You see that is precisely what I would expect from the mindset of an authentic leader: someone who has a worldview forged through experiential friction, unlearning and practicing what they preach.
You say you believe something. Okay, cool. Have you tested it?
And my hope in writing this is that it would not be so easily interpreted as an issue solely for the religious few. As leaders, that’s a mistake we cannot afford because hypocrisy is an issue of delivering. It’s an issue of follow-through. It’s an issue of authenticity, trust and influence.