Do you know what an actor was called at the time of Jesus? A hypokrisis. Which gets transliterated in English as hypocrite.
We hear the word hypocrite and think of someone who says one thing but does another. Someone who claims to be good even though they really aren’t. And we really, really don’t like that sort of hypocrite.
We have a near-obsession with hypocrisy. We love nothing more than to find someone who is behaving in a way which is not consistent with their stated values or beliefs and playing “gotcha” on them. Many Christians, seeking to be self-reflective and not like the hypocrites, try to be finely attuned to the ways that we are not living up to our stated values and beliefs. Then we write blog posts and sermons and make confessions about our own hypocrisy.
But our obsession isn’t actually a reflection of Jesus’ concerns. When Jesus called someone a hypocrite, he was saying that they were play acting at life. Playing a role instead of being a human. They weren’t keeping it real, peeps. And neither are a lot of us Christians today.
The problem stems from the conflict between human nature and what we think God expects from us. We know that we’re supposed to be kind, loving, patient, generous, slow to anger, humble and joy filled. But the reality for every human being is that we’re often mean, resentful, impatient, selfish, hostile, self-seeking and negative.
Many people believe that these dark thoughts and emotions are unacceptable. So we do our best to get rid of them. We pressure everyone around us (especially our children) not to acknowledge or display them either. Which is a great way to become the sort of play-actor Jesus scolded the religious of his day for being.
There is a great temptation for those of us who are religiously inclined to become play-actors. Because we desire God and his ways, we are repulsed by, afraid of and practically allergic to our dark side. In the circles we move in, allowing that dark side to peek through is not acceptable. We have a strong need to show ourselves and the world that this dangerous dark side doesn’t exist and certainly doesn’t have a hold on us.
So we do the things we’re supposed to do. We give and pray and go to church and maybe evangelize or work for social justice or against social ills. But the thing is that our dark side doesn’t go away. It still shows up unexpectedly or exists as a low-level strum behind it all. So we do our best to shove it down some more.
We try to cover it more deeply beneath our Godly habits. We may become more public in our displays of religiosity so others will see and affirm our goodness for us. We can build strong walls of goodness all around our dark side to encapsulate and cover it. But it’s still there, just rotting away under it all.
Avoiding our dark side turns us into white-washed graves. Jewel encrusted cups with filth coating the inside. We’re hypocrites – playing a role rather than being a human who, like everyone else, has a dark side.
It’s not that God wants us to give our dark side free reign to control our lives. That’s not a virtue. But he wants us to be real about it. Jesus said he came to heal the sick, not the well. If your way of coping with being sick is to hide it and pretend to be well – weller than anyone else, in fact – it’s very hard for a doctor to treat you.
Of course, as I mentioned recently, God can be pretty ruthless. He is determined to make us well. Even if you are allergic to and determined to hide from your dark side, life has a way of pushing you so far that you just can’t keep it up anymore. It just takes too much work to keep hiding, repressing and denying that part of yourself when the stuff really hits the fan.
I regularly run into Christians in this position. Life has gone all to pot and they are struggling with a dark side they’ve always run from. They think that maybe life is so hard because God’s upset about this dark side and despair of ever recovering. But the truth is that this is a very good position to be in. It’s God cleaning out the cup. And when you’re done, you won’t be painting with white-washed anymore. Instead, you’ll be able to create a full color masterpiece.