I think I can honestly say that hypocrisy is one of my biggest pet peeves. Especially when it’s about religion.
My ex-best friend, who we’ll call K, practically led the crusades for Christianity. She was all about doing the right thing and being a good Christian. She’d always talk about her pastor relatives as if their profession made her pious, and I always remember silently rolling my eyes because it didn’t matter if the Pope himself was her biological father. The only thing that makes her Christian is her faith and her deeds.
K always liked to play the martyr. She’d do things for other people just so she could show off how great of a person she is- by way of complaining about how hard it was for her and how much self-sacrifice it involved. But just as much, if not more, than playing the martyr, K loved to tell me when I wasn’t being a Christian. Which would be good if she actually had true Christian standards and was doing so to make me a better person, not because she liked being better than me. But, I’m sorry, bullying someone who is supposed to be your best friend (or bullying anyone for that matter) isn’t Christian. I could give more examples of things she’s done but that would just get monotonous and that’s not really even the point; this isn’t about telling you all the things that didn’t make her a Christian. The point is that for being such a “Christian,” that’s some pretty un-Christian like behavior. I’d rather call that being a hypocrite.
You see, Christianity is not a label that you can just wear around like a badge of honor. Christianity is a way of life. You have to commit to it day by day and show it in the way that you treat others in both word and deed. Just saying that you are a “Christian” isn’t enough.
K had this thing that she’d like to say- “Forgive and forget.” She really wouldn’t consider something forgiven until it’s forgotten as well. Now, I believe in forgiveness, I really do, but I do not agree that forgiving and forgetting must go hand in hand and that in order to forgive someone you must also forget what has happened. If we forgot every time we forgave, we would never learn anything. And once again, because I refuse to forget things (which according to her is a key trait to forgiveness), I am not a good Christian.
But by judging me, she was the one who wasn’t being a good Christian. It’s the Pharisees and the scribes, those who think they have it all figured out, who stand at the front of the temple praising God with loud proclamations of faith and donating large sums of money just so that people acknowledge their “showy” faith. The Pharisees and the scribes who condemn the young man who prays quietly for forgiveness at the back of the temple because he does not feel worthy to approach the altar of the Lord. The Pharisees who really do not admit that they are sinners, or at the very least, those Pharisees who think that their sins aren’t as bad as the filthy tax collectors’, that they are better people and better disciples of Christ. When we build ourselves up in showy ornaments of “faith” and proclaim them to be a show of our Christianity, we are the Pharisees and scribes. The label is a hypocritical, and we are not Christians.
If you’ve spent a bit of time around EurOK, you’ve more than figured out that last year, Les Mis was a large part of my life. I learned so much during that last year: from being horribly ill for months on end to being treated poorly by my directors to playing one of musical theater’s most heart-wrenching mother-leads of all time. And for those of you that know the show, you will understand this: K was my Javert. Just think about the way in which the mistaken, misguided Javert pursues the good-hearted Jean Valjean and all in the name of God. He pursues a man who has saved a worker pinned under the crushing weight of a cart, who rescued a poor woman from being sent to jail for trying to provide for her child, who fulfilled that mother’s dying wish by delivering her child from the potholes of poverty, who gave his money to the poor like he has given his life to God… who has given his life to God.
It is Valjean who has truly given his life to God. Valjean who does God’s will without boasting of it. Simply giving back to the God who gave him everything. And Javert pursues him and persecutes him all while boasting that he is doing it in the name of God. We see the Pharisees and the young sinner return in 1800s France, this time wearing an inspector’s garb and this time a brand upon his chest. And they returned two years ago in the form of K and myself. Surely, I do not need to tell you which of these was the true Christian in each of these stories.
I say these things not to gain some recognition for myself as to my own Christianity or to place myself above K as a better Christian than she, but rather to air my grievance about hypocritical Christians and to point out that “Christian” is not a label. Simply calling yourself a Christian is not enough. It is a name you must live up to each and every day. You’re going to fail sometimes; we all do. But the true Christians realize where they went wrong, and they repent.
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” -Matthew 20:16
You can be sure that the young sinner is being seated at the Wedding Feast in Heaven before the Pharisees will be. But, Pharisees, it is not too late to repent, for “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7).