Thursday, August 18, 2016

"Hypocrisy is Contagious"

Galatians 2.11a, 12b-13 NIV

“Peter… used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.”
What is the root cause of hypocrisy? According to this verse the culprit is fear. Paul claimed fear of the Judaizers made Peter act in a way that was inconsistent with his personal beliefs. This behavior is called hypocrisy and is common in the church. A church visitor told the minister, “I will not join your church because it’s full of hypocrites”. The pastor replied, “Why not? There’s always room for one more”.

This sin has serious consequences for leaders. As a result of Peter's hypocritical behavior, “other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray”. Apparently, hypocrisy is contagious.

If I profess one thing and do another, then I’m a hypocrite. If my actions always line up with my beliefs, then I’m perfect. I land somewhere in the middle. Like Paul, there are times when “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.... For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing”.[1]

I am fully aware that my personal hypocrisy has a negative impact on others. But I cannot simply stop being a hypocrite. My behavior patterns are too ingrained. Perhaps recognizing fear as the source of my hypocrisy (most specifically, the fear of what others may think) can help. If I am free from concerns about what others may think, then I am free to be myself and serve Christ with a whole heart in the spirit of true equality. It follows then, that if I am free from fear of public opinion, then I am free from hypocrisy. If I am free from hypocrisy, then I need not worry about leading others astray by my inconsistent behavior.  

Jesus, set me free!


[1] In Romans 7.15, 19, Paul essentially described himself as a hypocrite in Romans 7 which is interesting since he accused Peter of the very same sin in Galatians 2. Could it be that Paul, who wrote the letter to the Romans, was a bit more experienced, mature, and humble than he was when he authored his earlier epistle to the church in Galatia?  

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