Consensual Hypocrisy – Part II
On Monday I posted Consensual Hypocrisy, Part I. Today I want to push toward some practical solutions to the problem.
Glass Houses It’s been said, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!” And, we Christians do live in glass houses – at least we’re supposed to. Jesus said, “A city on a hill cannot be hid, “and “Let your light so shine before men…” Our lives should be an open book. However, living like that carries its own risks. It makes us vulnerable to the criticism of others and that scares the wits out of us.
So imagine a street with glass houses on either side. There are things going on in my neighbors’ lives that are as visible to me as my actions and attitudes are to them. As we pass each other’s houses and see good, Christ-like behavior we shout a word of encouragement to them and cheer them on as we should. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I Thess. 5:11
However, occasionally we see something in their lives that’s troubling. It may not be anything big, but it’s a pattern that unsettles us because we know it’s either wrong or suspect it’s at least very unwise. In either case it’s a behavior that doesn’t appear to square with scripture or in our opinion, doesn’t make God look good. Something in their lives is moving in the wrong direction and we have this impression from God to speak up by picking up a small stone and tossing it their way, hoping this clink on their window will get their attention and have its hoped for outcome – a cessation of whatever the issue is.
Just then we notice that our neighbor isn’t at home. They’re actually standing in front of our house with a stone of their own in hand about to warn us of something they see in our lives. So, here we have two good willed people, who know right from wrong, who care about preserving godly behavior – not religious busybodies, but serious would be followers of Jesus. Our eyes meet, but instead of giving and receiving loving admonishment, something else occurs. Wordlessly we make a deal with one another to mutually suspend moral judgment. I’ll drop my stone, if you’ll drop yours. Consensual hypocrisy.
Judge not, lest you be judged? You’d think that when we saw fellow Christians behaving in a way that appears inconsistent with Jesus’ teachings, we’d return home, examine scriptures and pray about how we ought to respond.
You’d think we’d care enough to approach anyone who calls themselves a Christian who are making choices that appear to violate a clear teaching of scripture and talk to them about it. In a spirit of humility and love, we’d admit that we ourselves aren’t sinless, but at least ask some questions about their choices.
I’d not expect them to sell their new house, but perhaps God would use you to help them think twice about future purchases. Perhaps your honest confession about poor entertainment choices you’ve made, or you’re sharing how you’ve been tempted at times to end your marriage, but didn’t and why, would cause them to rethink their decisions. But, that rarely happens! Why not?
To begin with, most of us have no use for judgmental people so; of course we’d never do it ourselves. Isn’t that what the, “judge not lest ye be judged” verses are all about we tell ourselves? So, we back off – unsure
Actually, we are commanded to judge fellow Christians. If you’d like to learn more about that, read my blog, Should Christians Judge One Another?
Using the power of community to change. But, there are other ways to address this issue. If it was the power of seeing other Christians sin or make unwise choices, that tempted you to sin, I believe that same power can be used to reverse this trend. Let’s explore how;
1. Examine your life.
Consider if your lifestyle or habits help fellow Christians to be more godly or do they tempt them to be less so.
In what ways is your lifestyle similar to non-Christians? (What you eat, what you drink, what you wear or drive, etc.)
Besides going to church or Bible studies, in everyday life, how is your life markedly different? How would your non-Christian friends or co-workers say you’re different?
Have you been taking your cues on how to live from other Christians or the Bible?
2. Gather a small group of Christian friends and begin talking about this problem. Perhaps you’d like to share these blogs with this group to begin the discussion. Talk about this issue honestly and openly. Be prepared to share how consensual hypocrisy has lowered your own standards. Ask yourself and the group, questions like:
What did I once believe was wrong, that I no longer do?
Did my change of heart come from new insights in scripture, or the influence of friends and the culture?
How have you seen consensual hypocrisy influence your family or friends?
3. Solicit their ideas for dealing with this problem and set some boundaries of your own. Each of us knows where we’ve compromised, but when you go beyond confession, to thinking about solutions, you move toward true change. Ask yourselves questions like:
How much is enough? Determine how much you’ll spend on yourself, regardless of your rising income.
Is your alcohol use a problem or a temptation to someone else?
What types of entertainment (books, TV, movies, social media, etc.) have you decided are off limits, for you? How much time will you limit yourself to engaging with them?
If materialism is your problem, what stores, websites or catalogues will you “fast from” to break that addiction in you? (I’d recommend reading Ron Blue’s wonderful book on money, Generous Living, if you know you have a problem with materialism.)
Are there jokes, gossip, sexual innuendo or foul language you occasionally use that lowers the bar for others?
Do you have a Christian “hero”? (A person you know who appears to be living like Jesus. Ask them for help!)
The point is to set some specific boundaries for your life that will halt or reverse your tendency to comprise what you believe is God’s best for you. As you read scripture, the Holy Spirit will let you know if something isn’t right in your life. “It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” Titus 2:12
4. Tell your group, or at very least, two close friends or family members, what God has impressed you to do and find others who will join you. There is power in accountability. I know two very successful businessmen, who for years made a pact that they not spend more than $40,000 on cars. Another group decided they’d not purchase a second home or vacation home without bringing it to the group first. Still others have fixed an amount their family will live on, and only increase that amount by indexing it for inflation.
The whole point of this exercise is to avoid, if possible, judging others, except by mutual consent. When you and others invite others to hold you accountable to the standards you, yourself have set, based on prayer and scriptures, it’s powerful and effective. Environmentalists have a saying, “Think globally – act locally” you can’t change the world, but you can change you!
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness.” II Peter 1:5-7
Question: I’d like to hear your solutions to the consensual hypocrisy problem.
Following Jesus in Real Life