I have more than one job. I serve on a church staff, and I work at a nonprofit, community-based organization. (I also write, speak, etc., but let’s set that aside for the sake of this post).
I sometimes think of them as my inside and outside jobs. There are a lot similarities. Both are service, other-oriented. Both involve a lot of communication and relationships.
But because I’ve worked in ministry off and on through the years, I see some differences, too. Anyone who has worked in a church knows there is a danger of developing an “inside” perspective. We can get so caught up with the day-to-day operations and programs of the church that we neglect the impact we’re supposed to have on the community and world. Or we leave that for another staff member or committee to cover. We get used to certain terminology. Most our friends are within the church. Even though it’s not usually intentional, we begin to isolate ourselves from the outside world, which means we can’t have as much influence on others, and we don’t get frequent reality checks of what the world is up to. We can easily slip into an “us” and “them” mentality.
My outside job keeps me in check. And I love it! I get to come in contact with such a variety of people with different perspectives, interests, and backgrounds. I get to hear their stories, concerns, and even their assumptions about “you Christians.” Sometimes the harsh reality of what people think about Christians is difficult to hear, but I can also understand why people think some of the negative stuff about Christians. I can’t prove them wrong with words, but maybe I can begin to chip away at some of those assumptions by living consistently, replacing hypocrisy with authenticity, judgment with compassion, and elitism with humility.
You don’t have to work an inside and outside job to see it. Any of us can and should see the differences yet begin to live in a way that chips away at the harsh generalizations (that go both ways). We don’t have to get defensive or see each other as opposition. We can acknowledge we have differences but adamantly look for common ground.
We all have two (or more) jobs. But how well are we doing at both?
We can be okay with uncertainty but not hypocrisy.
When we’re not okay with uncertainty, we invite hypocrisy. When we’re not okay with uncertainty, we claim something just to seem or feel certain. We think a firm stand is better than no stand at all. But we can easily find ourselves on anything by firm ground. Just because we take a firm stand doesn’t mean where we stand is firm. We claim what isn’t true or right or correct, and we find others see us as hypocritical.
Perhaps what’s more important is that we begin to see the hypocrisy within ourselves.
Just because we’re confident in one thing doesn’t mean we have to have all the answers in everything. Just because we stand on a firm foundation at one time because we’re certain of a core truth doesn’t mean we can claim firm truth under our feet no matter where we step and what topics we cover.
Humility is essential to being a lifelong learner, and if we’re not willing to learn and change throughout our lives, not only do we lose, but so do others around us.
I do not sit with the worthless or associate with hypocrites. I hate a crowd of evildoers, and I do not sit with the wicked. I wash my hands in innocence and go around Your altar, Lord, raising my voice in thanksgiving and telling about Your wonderful works. (Psalm 26:4-7)
People might use these verses to justify haughtiness, judgment, or isolation, but these verses also contain thanksgiving. Claims in these verses are only in the context of our humble relationship with and dependence on God. We take our frustration to Him. Yes, it involves other people, but we only isolate ourselves from others in the context of drawing closer to God. In my experience, that often eventually concerns attempting to draw closer to others as well, as He directs. Even when we don’t understand, we can be thankful for whatever ways He guides and trust His wonderful works.
Hypocrisy is nothing new.
Solomon loved the Lord by walking in the statutes of his father David, but he also sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. (1 Kings 3:3)
We judge and are judged by our hypocrisy. Yet it is hypocrisy itself to assume we can completely rid ourselves of it. No matter how other-focused we are, we are still somewhat self-focused. No matter how loving and generous we are, we have remnants of quiet selfishness. No matter how grand our faith is, we have sprinkles of doubt.
When we come across hypocrisy in ourselves or others, we can resist the urge to rationalize it or to dismiss anything it touches. A moment of doubt doesn’t cancel faith. A thought of self doesn’t cancel our concern for others. A struggle with how to respond with grace doesn’t mean our grace, or God’s, isn’t enough.
When we’re honest with our hypocrisy, we’re willing to struggle through it to come through on the other side with a more bold, secure faith. We have a firmer foundation. Yet as we continue to walk on that foundation, we will discover more cracks we need to assess, repair, and sometimes, destroy and rebuild.
Calling someone a hypocrite often exposes our own hypocrisy. Maybe that’s okay. Perhaps it’s the dose of truth we need to admit and change.
How often do we declare something as wrong, then step into that exact same thing?
Saul had removed the mediums and spiritists from the land…He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him in dreams or by the Urim or by the prophets. Saul then said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I can go and consult her.” (1 Samuel 28:3b, 6-7)
We declare something wrong until it benefits us, or at least, we perceive it will benefit us. Even if we say we tried to rely on God, if He didn’t respond the way we preferred in the timing we wanted, we can easily turn back to what is familiar, even if we have a love-hate relationship with it. We often live in tension, which can become turmoil…or we ignore the turmoil, even get comfortable with it, which welcomes hypocrisy.
Realistically, we all have some hypocrisy in our lives, but we can at least be attentive enough to want to weed our lives of it. We can be honest with ourselves and others through the tension and turmoil. And we can let God set expectations instead of us imposing ours onto Him.
Christians can be relentless.
Perseverance can be a good thing when it’s well-directed, when we persevere in faith. But faith that is on constant battle mode, like a cornered badger, reveals a stressed, anxiety-laden faith instead of a faith marked by trust in God. We can be convicted with an urgency to stand and speak up, but that’s very different than sinking our teeth into someone or foaming at the mouth to pounce.
It’s not impossible to be kind, patient, gentle, and loving when confronting people and issues. All of those things (and more) are fruit of the Spirit. If our faith-filled lives and our interactions with others don’t include the fruit of the Spirit, we have a problem. When we’re known more for our relentless attacks more than we are for the character of God, we need to chill and take a look at ourselves and our faith.
Have you heard of a gap year? It’s a period, typically an academic year, taken by a student as a break between high school and college, vocational school, or military service. President Obama’s daughter’s gap year announcement has recently made the news. In her case, I think it’s a good idea. She already faces a year of changes ahead, as her dad leaves office and the entire family moves and readjusts. Plus, she’s lived the past (at least) eight years in the spotlight. Not that she won’t have a spotlight on her once her dad’s out of office, but perhaps it will be just a little less after someone else is Commander-in-Chief.
But for those of us who grew up in the “push forward and work hard and don’t stop or you’re a slacker” era, a gap year is hard to swallow. Are these kids lazy?
Maybe a few are, but I think that’s a dangerous assumption to make. To be honest, not everyone knows what they want to do beyond high school. Or they know they have a long road ahead and want some prep time before diving into adulthood. Looking back, we might be able to say high school was easy and should be counted as a “gap” before real life, but for those in the middle of it or pushing through to the end, it can be stressful and demanding. Maybe some people choosing a gap year are not being lazy but smart, practical, and discerning.
Let’s be honest. There are gaps in all of our lives. Some we need, and some we don’t. Some we see, and some we don’t. We often see gaps in others. There are gaps between goals and where we are, our goals and reality. But isn’t that normal? When we’re working toward something, doesn’t that assume we’re not quite there?
Christians are often accused of being hypocritical, and they blame others of the same thing. What if we actually invited others into the gap between our goals and reality instead of pointing to hypocrisy? What if we tried to see the wisdom, practicality, discernment, and humility in the gap instead of the fault?