Thursday, November 21, 2019

Hypocrites and Sinners

There's a difference between hypocrites and sinners. The world doesn't want you to think that. They want you to think that anyone who says one thing and does another is a hypocrite - they have intentionally done whatever it is in an effort to place themselves above even their own rules. It's kind of like every time an accident happens and the public cries out to file charges against somebody - there are no accidents any more, because there are no sinners; only hypocrites. There are only persons who think they're "special" and the rules don't apply to them. So let's hold everyone accountable.

But the truth is much more complicated than that (although to be honest, that's pretty complicated, too, because we're holding everyone accountable for everything and that gets pretty messy; just look at some of the innocence issues coming out). 

It's more complicated than that because most of us aren't really hypocrites; we're just sinners. We're just persons who have fallen short of the standards that we've set for ourselves or that we've accepted for ourselves, in the case of the Christian faith. We're just persons who are trying, really trying, to do right and somehow still getting it wrong. We're just persons who mess up from time to time, not because we intend to or because we think it doesn't matter, but just because we do. We're not perfect. 

Our imperfections don't make us hypocrites. They make us sinners.

Jesus gets on the Pharisees a lot about this very thing. They talk a big game, always having all of the rules and regulations and judgments to go about, but very rarely living by them themselves or holding themselves to the same standards. Even when they aren't about rules, it shows in other ways, and we're prone to think that every time we see Pharisees in Scripture, they're hypocrites, but maybe that's not the case. Maybe sometimes, they're just sinners. 

Maybe sometimes, they've just fallen short. It's a really grey area, but it's important. We think of the Pharisees as rule-keepers, as guys who are overly focused on what's right and what's wrong, to the point that they miss so often what is good. But what if, for a lot of them, they truly believe this is what is good and they're just doing their best? 

That's what we don't have a lot of in today's world - a belief that most everyone is just doing their best. We, of course, are doing our best, but that other person? They clearly aren't even trying. 

Here's what makes it hard, but also so important: if we're all hypocrites, if everyone is 100% responsible for every failing that they have, if we can sue and charge and imprison and fine and destroy everyone who ever makes a mistake, then the standards are black and white and we have control. We have control because we have judgment. We can say with absolute certainty (we think) what is right and what is wrong (even though, ironically, that has proven to be more difficult as time goes by). 

But if we're sinners, that takes grace. That requires believing that everyone is doing their best and being willing to let some things go, not because they're unimportant but because they're...well, they just are. They are just things that happen from time to time, not because the rules don't apply but because life is hard. Because life is busy. Because we are multi-dimensional human beings all trying to do our best but coming up short sometimes. It requires grace, and grace requires humility because it takes us being willing to look at ourselves and use the same standards we have for us for others. It requires confessing that we're just as likely to screw up and just as likely to long for grace, so we extend it to others. 

That's not easy. It's simple, but it's not easy, and most of us aren't willing to take the hard road of grace. 

Ironically, that makes us hypocrites. Doesn't it? 

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