Sin is the most theologically correct answer to the question of “why” we’re hypocrites, but that’s too easy. There’s a reason why a certain type of hypocrisy is so accepted today. I’ve chosen to call it consensual hypocrisy. And, at the end of this blog series, I’ll ask for your suggestions for dealing with this sin. And yes, it is a sin!
Consensual Hypocrisy We all know what consensual sex is. Half my teenage life was spent looking for it. It’s two people agreeing to suspend moral judgment on each other to do what they both know is wrong, just because they want to. And, the fact that everyone else appeared to be doing it, or was wanting to do it, simply helped lubricate away my guilt.
Consensual hypocrisy is the silent resignation by the Christian community to a life and lifestyle that looks nothing like what we claim to believe theologically. And, since everyone else appears to be cutting corners on living like Jesus and getting away with it and they’re Christians, it creates a moral, gravital pull on each of us to lower our own standards. And, with this more “pragmatic Christianity” comes the loss of both the moral right and the will to call others back to biblical living.
Here’s how this works in the life of us Christians.
I’m in a theatre watching a movie with which I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable. I’m about to walk out because the film celebrates a lifestyle that is anti-ethical to a biblical worldview, or is filled with language I know is offensive. Just then I spot a friend from my church, “another good Christian” and instantly I feel somewhat relieved. If watching this movie is okay for him, perhaps I was being overly sensitive, so I relax a little. However, a third Christian in the audience who recognized me as a fellow Christian, now also feels better and less guilty as she leaves the theatre.
The Plot Thickens We’re thinking of building a house and we find a plan we like. It’s perfect and affordable, but that’s not our problem. We begin asking ourselves whether Christians, whether we should really spend that much money on a house with so many others in terrible poverty all over the world and even in our own city. So, we hold up, uncertain – until.
We’re invited to a gathering at the beautiful home of a well-known, successful Christian in our community. And, as soon as we arrive the wheels begin turning. Well, if this house isn’t poor stewardship for them then our proposed house at half this size may not be a problem after all. Besides, look at the way they share it with their friends. What a great way to exercise the gift of hospitality. And, so it goes, the new house is built, an open house is thrown and as another Christian couple who’ve also been wrestling with this very issue themselves, come through the front door and look around, their decision just got a lot easier.
The Real Problem When I was in high school I was a hall monitor. We had power! We’d enforce the rules for hall movement with pharisaical consistency on all visitors, under classmen and students we didn’t like. But for our friends, we issued hall passes like confetti. And, when it was their turn at being the gatekeeper, they did the same for us.
In our heart of hearts many of us are wanting the freedom to make similar choices that we see others making. By the disobedience of others, they’ve actually given us permission to do that. For sure, they’re never going to call us out on it. Here’s your hall pass. Don’t forget me next time.
Oddly enough- the greatest danger to you living out a Christ-centered life , may actually be your Christian friends! Have you grown more comfortable in your disobedience because of their choices of entertainment, the things they clearly value, the language they use or bad habits they’ve developed? Could it be that without even thinking of it, you were drawn to them because their life made you feel less guilty? I’ve sat with dozens of men over the years who’ve chosen to divorce their wives, emboldened by others in the Christian community who’ve made the same choice because “they’re Christians aren’t they?”
On Thursday, I’ll post Part II. In the meantime, think about how much your own standards have been lowered, influenced by other Christians around you.
Question: What things are you doing today, that ten or twenty years ago you believed were wrong?
Following Jesus in Real Life