Don’t look but we are all hypocrites

I am a Methodist.  Not so much by choice and certainly not because I surveyed what and how all our available religions mean and operate.  Nope, I’m a Methodist mostly because my folks were Methodists and I’m going to go out on a limb here (because I’ve never asked them) and say they’re Methodists because their folks were Methodists or maybe just because that was the closest church to the farm when they were growing up; hell, I don’t know.  The point here is not to indict my parents nor savage my non-choice (perish the thought) but to say that I’m supposed to be following a religion started by a guy named John Wesley.

Wesley was an Oxford student who took up his brother’s religious group in 1729.  The other students at Oxford mocked them, calling them the “Holy Club” because of their emphasis on devotions.  It seems that even back then if you committed yourself to a search for holiness and service to others and did it the wrong way you were subject to derision.  Who woulda thunk it, huh?

My point (and I promise I have one) in all this is to pay special attention to the fact that number 1 on the list of the 22 questions the members of the Holy Club asked themselves every day in their private devotions way back when was:  “Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am?  In other words, am I a hypocrite?”  If you know me at all, and chances are you don’t really but I’ll proceed like you do, you’ll know I do my best to be a no bullshit kind of guy.  Ask me anything and I’ll tell you.  So believe me when I say that my answer to question number one is a resounding “Yes!  Yes, I am a hypocrite.”  I’m not comfortable with that but I know every day when I pray and when I’m sitting in church on Sunday or wherever I’m not alone.

About this time some of you may be aghast, some may be offended and some may think I’m practicing some sort of reverse piety, beating my chest like the Pharisee, over-wallowing in my badness to somehow best my fellow human who unlike me doesn’t realize how awful they are.  So, please, allow me to try and explain because I think John’s group had a pretty good reason for putting the above question at number one.

I’ve never surveyed a group of people who don’t attend church and while there are a TON of people out there yapping about why people don’t and who are glad to give you their two cents I have to think a bunch of those “unchurched” look at Christians as hypocrites.  They don’t go because they know George, who would sit in the pew next to them, cheats on his taxes (“Give to Ceasar” indeed!).  They don’t go because Tammy, their neighbor down the block, goes and she runs all over town with who-in-the-heck-knows-who and so really, what’s the use?  Well, I heard in church once, from a guy who’s a lot smarter than I am, that churches are full of people who are run over by life (thanks, Craig) and I believe that.  We are all banged up in every way imaginable and that includes being a hypocrite.

If you say you’ve never done anything to make yourself look better, portrayed yourself in anything other than an unvarnished appearance or even put on a happy face when inside you’re a heapin’ hot mess then I’m going to call you a liar.  But then I’m going to embrace you as one of my people.  We’re all concerned about our image.

We’re all worried about how we’re going to look, what others are thinking about us and if they like us.  We want to be liked.  It’s just one of the vagaries of being human.  The good thing is, church is tailor-made for people like us.

Churches, heck religions in general, were organized to minister to, speak to and help people who are far, far from perfect.  The idea or the excuse not to go to church is a little like not going to the hospital when you’re sick because there’s a whole bunch of sick people there.  Just know that if and when you do go to church you’re surrounded by people who are more like you than they appear.  But how does this help you?  The fact is the saying of it doesn’t, you have to do something far more involved; you have to believe.

Church, faith and the belief in something greater or higher than ourselves is why we sit, steeped in our hypocrisy on Sundays.  We believe we are overly concerned with how everyone views us and we think what we hear there might help us with that.  We have a trust in the promise we’re given there and what the Bible has to say about how we should attempt to live.  And finally we place our trust and hold in reverence something we don’t really understand if only because we know our own weakness and our own faults and that includes being a hypocrite.  Admittedly it’s not very comforting to ‘fess up to your shortcomings, even if it’s only between you and God when you talk but it’s necessary.

The guys in the Holy Club were probably smarter than the average bear (thanks, Yogi).  They were Oxford students after all.  And they probably knew trying not to be a hypocrite was the first step down an honest path of looking at yourself and what/where you needed to go in life.  At the ends of our lives if we never quite get there in not being a hypocrite if we believe in forgiveness and we believe in grace we can be assured that, hypocrisy and all, we will be saved.

I hope you enjoyed this little discussion of our humanity and our hypocrisy.  If you want to read more, click here to go the home page.  If you like what you read and haven’t subscribed I hope you will do that by clicking this.  Subscribing is free and means you will receive an email on Sundays with links to the week’s posts, noting more or less as I never sell or share emails.