Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good~ 1st Peter 2:1-3
A couple of months back I was watching a news story that was covering a bizarrely violent protest taking place in California. I was curious (to say the least) about the tactics of the protesters, which led me to do a bit of research on the organizations the protesters belonged to. I learned that the organizations in question (ANTIFA, Refuse Fascism, End Fascism) are devoted to ending all forms of racism, fascism and hate-speech in America.
A noble and commendable goal, all things considered.
Paradoxically, these groups deliberately employ fascist methods and strategies including physical violence, hate speech, victim blaming and racist (anti-white) rhetoric. They engage in fascism, violence, hate speech and racism in order to end fascism, racism and hate speech.
Insert confused face here.
At the time, I remember thinking that only a lunatic would attempt to stop something by engaging in the very thing they claim they want to end. But, after some thought it occurred to me that it wasn’t lunacy motivating that particular situation. It was something far more fundamental, malevolent and dangerous than simple lunacy: hypocrisy.
Jesus had a lot to say about hypocrisy and none of it was pleasant (Matthew 6:1-16, Matthew 7:5, Matthew 23:13-33, Luke 12:56, Luke 13:14-16). Jesus treated hypocrites and hypocrisy with such utter contempt because He understood a couple of truths at the heart of hypocrisy that we (as beings that tend toward hypocrisy) tend to overlook.
First, hypocrisy spreads like a virus, especially when it begins with leadership. Anytime a leader (parent, pastor, politician, supervisor) takes a hypocritical position on a subject, or chronically behaves in a hypocritical fashion, everyone who follows that leader is tempted or deceived into taking the same position and behaving just like their leader. Sadly, anyone who follows a hypocritical leader eventually becomes a mirror image of that leader.
Jesus hates hypocrisy because it robs people of self-awareness and causes them to call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). If people tell themselves that wrong is right, or at least right for them (because their circumstances are special) often enough or long enough they begin to believe their own lie and end up doing things they never could have imagined themselves doing, as they are instructing others not to do the very things they are doing.
The hypocrisy that has taken root in anti-fascist circles is more than just a humorous case study in irony; it’s a cautionary tale for us all, especially followers of Jesus. Christians sometimes write off hypocrisy as nothing more than a quirky personality trait, or worse yet, as a legitimate means to a needed end. In reality it’s a serious sin that grows out of pride (another serious sin) that is nurtured by a willful lack of self-awareness. If left alone hypocrisy ruins not only the hypocrite but also everyone around the hypocrite.
Sadly, no one (no matter how spiritually mature) is immune to the appeal of hypocrisy. It is simply a part of our fallen nature as humans to imagine that we can trick everyone around us (including God) into believing that we are doing what we say we are doing-instead of what we are actually doing. In the end the only one who is fooled is the hypocrite.
As a general rule I am extremely wary about hunting for sin in the lives of other people. Most of us (including myself) have more than enough sin in our own lives to worry about; we simply should not be focusing our attention on anyone else’s sinful stuff. That being said, Jesus warned His followers that deception would be one of the defining characteristics of the end times (Matthew 24, Luke 21:5-36, Mark 13:1-23). Hypocrisy is deception that begins with an attempt to deceive others and ends with self-deception, hypocrisy is also at the root of almost every kind of evil. Because of that, Christians should deal ruthlessly with any hypocrisy they see in their own lives and run as fast as they can from any leader who is transparently hypocritical.
Hypocrisy destroys individuals, families, churches, relationships and entire movements. Hypocrisy of Christians has done more damage to Christianity than any other single issue in the 2000-year history of the church. Any behavior that can do that much damage should be dealt with decisively and mercilessly.