Nov 8, 2011
Hypo-Critical: The Scandal of Living One Life
Behind the pretty little photographs of all of our lives is a disaster of sorts.
Jesus, in the gospel narratives, charges people with the term “hypocrites.” (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; 22:18; 23:13) In doing so, Jesus is criticising a people not much different than ourselves; people who try and wear one mask here and another entirely different mask over there. They, like us, do and say certain things in this place but change their entire vocabulary in another so as to please a certain audience. Jesus would even, at one point, refer to people as “white-washed tombs.” Whew. Beautiful outsides; rotting outsides. This is the human condition.
Sin is having a PhD in hypocricy and a bachelors in authenticity.
This whole line of reasoning that the gospels describe Jesus as saying is particularly about me, I think. Like someone who knows many languages, I am constantly playing many different roles. To my academic friends, I utilize my really-smart person vocab. With church people, Christian-ese. With pagans, non-Christian language. To Twitterers, simple language under a certain number of characters.
Humans, the whole lot of us, do this quite often. We put on our “Sunday Best” only to truly live by our “Monday Worst.” We all wear different hats in different places and think we can manage more than one life. But it's not true. We can’t. We have one life.
The psychology of being a Christ-follower has been on my mind as of late. How do we think, act, and live as though we are one person? Not having five lives. Or one major life and then one minor one. Being Christians over here and atheists over there. Having this life over here and that life over there.
I ask this because, frankly, it's rather challenging living many lives. Is it possible to be the same person here that I am there?
It is deceptively easy, in our drive-through culture, to have and even succeed at having more than one life. Someone once said that everyone in Portland is living at least three lives. (Cue line from the Matrix: "Mr. Anderson, it appears you've been living two lives.)
It’s true. We all have many lives. And it’s quite easy to manage many lives. But not one.
Managing one life is the hardest challenge of this side of eternity and one promoted by Christ. It starts with being honest with ourselves.
Jon Foreman, lead singer of Switchfoot, writes in a recent Relevant magazine article about the dangers that lie in hypocrisy both within the church and without: in the club and the church. Our greatest problem, Foreman writes, is within:
"At first glance, it might seem the Church is a better place to look for hope than the bottom of a bottle. Every day, alcoholism and drug abuse destroy families, ruin careers and wreck communities. On the other hand, theological beliefs and misunderstandings have been blamed for divisions, divorces and wars around the world. The trouble with each institution lies within us. True, alcohol feeds a different fire than pietism, but neither a drunk nor a hypocrite look very good in the daylight."
We all look really bad when the lights come on, don't we.
We call this dis-association. Splitting up our lives into little categories that make life easier. Some of us try and separate out our faith from our actual lives and histories; the realness of our lives. Recently, I read that both Frederich Nietzsche and George Eliot lost their faith when they read Life of Jesus Critically Examined by David Strauss. Many more have since in their “Bible as Literature” class in college. Faith died, for them, when they began to see the story of Christ in scripture as simply a fabrication. The church, they concluded, had invented that Jesus.
For them, their faiths and histories could not live together. The two must stay separate; faith and history must be divorced.
The same is a problem for so many of us. Our faith and our history can’t intersect. But I would say it can’t be faith if it isn’t a part of our history.
Christ calls us to live in the mess of many identities. Letting those identities bleed into one another. That they may become one. This is why he prayed for the Kingdom "to come." That heaven would manifest itself inside of us here-and-now that we would be prepared for the future. As the Father spoke over the Son about his love for him, Christ speaks over his church of his love. And every word is the seed of a new picture.
How can our lives be more unified as Christ-followers?
How do we, as followers of the One, Christ, bring all of our divergent lives into one? How is that possible?
What would repentance from hypocricy look like for you?