Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Lent day 13 - hypocrisy of the third kind

Today I'm remembering the title of an 80s sci fi movie that refers to the ways in which people are said to have encounters with aliens. Encounters of the third kind refer it seems to abduction and direct contact. So what is hypocrisy of the third kind?

Well I'm forcing things into this model for the sake of an illustration, but it kind of fits. Maybe you've heard people say that all religious people are hypocrites. This is hypocrisy of the first kind - we all profess a faith in God, and yet we continue to sin, to fall short and so on. All this really is, is a statement that people are saved by faith and not works, and that being remade in the image of Jesus is a journey of a lifetime. We all need to grow.

Hypocrisy of the second kind then is that willful blindspots that we have, those things that we don't want to see. I think of St Augustine who prayed for chastity, only not yet. Whereas the first is a bit of mix of things, the second focuses on something very obvious and very tightly held.

Whereas the first two can be mostly applied to your 'average Christian' (a phrase that kind of doesn't work and I don't like, but you get what I mean), whereas hypocrisy of the third kind is especially for public figures, or leaders, or role models. This is the scribes and Pharisees of Matthew 23 - whom Jesus lines up for some heavy hitting.

Once one is in leadership or some sort of ministry, the temptation to be seen to be impressive can be strong. This is Jesus first charge in verses 1-12. Don't play fancy dress, don't try and collect fancy titles, and don't try and position yourself in fancy places. Always be a servant and be humble. Love and serve as a friend of mine is always saying.

The woes call upon scribes and Pharisees is both impressive and depressing. A few key areas that stand out to me are:

  1. The role of a leader is not to add to what God wants to those who are seeking him. There is a time and place for the finer details of doctrine - it isn't all up front. People are saved by faith in Jesus, 'become Christians' first and then a Calvinist or Arminian or whatever later. There is also no time or place for extra rules on smoking or alcohol or whatever you like to add according to your social conventions elevated to the level of Scripture. Christianity is about freedom that we don't abuse, not bondage that abuses us.
  2. Justice and mercy and faithfulness matter to Jesus. I'm so completely sick of the rhetoric of 'social gospel' so that dualists and quasi-doceitists can say that we need to focus on 'evangelism' by which they mean the spreading of doctrinal memes, rather than living lives transformed and telling others why. There is so much more than could be said, but being merciful and seeing justice done for all is part of loving in public. Tell people Jesus loves them and love them while you are doing it. If that love means battling slavery, poor working conditions, inequality, racism, climate change, whatever - I find none of these to be contrary to the gospel and clear expressions of the future world to come.
  3. There seems to be a need for humility when judging the past. Jesus says (v29-31) 'you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.' We might claim we wouldn't have turned our backs on Jesus, but we would have. And we'd claim we'd have sided with orthodoxy and got it right in the formation of doctrine in the early church, or claim we have the correct set of beliefs, but do we really? Humility in our doctrine is orthopraxy, which is meant to be informed by but ultimately trumps orthodoxy.
So, you might be struggling with the day to day hypocrisy of the first kind, have a coveted hypocrisy of the second kind, but avoid, avoid hypocrisy of the third kind. Look at what Jesus has to say about that!

1 comment:

  1. Great! Love "freedom we don't abuse not bondage that abusesus"!