Sometimes I get confused about these two things. On the one hand, I want to be holy because that’s what God is calling me to. 2 Peter 1:15 says, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do…” (NIV). What does it mean to be holy? The Greek “hagioi” means different, set apart, and like God. On my own, I can’t be anything like God, but according to Hebrews 10:14, “…by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (NIV). Thank God, He is working in me to make me holy.
So why do I so often feel like a hypocrite, saying I believe one thing, and yet failing to live up to it? The word hypocrite comes from Greek theater, meaning “behind a mask.” To me, that means a hypocrite is someone who pretends to be one thing, but he is really hiding his true nature behind a mask. Jesus used the term translated hypocrite in Matthew 7:5 and Luke 6:42 when He said, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (NIV).
I am guilty of this hypocrisy. Sometimes I get so high and mighty in my desire to be holy, that I forget Who is making me holy. I start pretending to be something that I am not: self-righteous. Oh, I can look really righteous on the outside: say the right things, even do the right things. But only I and God know how wicked my heart really is. I can always tell when I start to be more concerned about the speck in my brother’s eye than the plank in my own. That’s when I know the hypocrisy is leaking out from behind my mask.
You see, that’s where my confusion sets in. How can I be holy and set apart – something different from the world and more like God – and at the same time not be self-righteous and hypocritical around others? I want to walk in the holiness that God requires, bear much fruit for Him, spread the fragrance of Christ everywhere I go. And yet, I want others to see the real me with no mask. And that requires that they see my sin. And how unholy I really am. Dilemma.
I think this dilemma is why so many non-believers don’t really trust Christians and aren’t interested in having what we have. They think we are all a bunch of hypocrites. And down deep, maybe we are. Maybe we don’t know how to be righteous without being fake. I think the difference between holiness and hypocrisy comes down to one thing: the heart.
On the outside, we could look at David and see a big hypocrite! An adulterous, murderous, hypocrite who talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk, until we see his heart in Psalm 51 – a heart of repentance and sorrow over his sin. He was a man who messed things up, but he loved God with all his heart and sought to make things right with God. Maybe that is what the world needs to see. Maybe if we lived each day focused not on being righteous and looking for those who aren’t, but instead just in love with Jesus and sharing that love with others, the world will see the truth of who He really is.
Because my so-called righteousness is never going to lead someone to Christ. Nobody else’s righteousness drew me to Christ. But someone’s love for Jesus did. We ARE called to be holy and walk in righteousness, but I believe the Lord is teaching me to let that holiness flow out of my love for Him and not my desire to be holy, if that makes sense. I know that I am a sinner saved by God’s grace expressed to me through Jesus’ death on the cross and payment for my sin. I am no longer a slave to sin but a slave to Christ.
So instead of trying to look right, I just want to walk with Jesus and be right with Him, deal quickly with sin, forgive others and let go of offenses, let His light shine through me. I think the world needs us right now to just be real. Not perfect, but not tolerating sin in our lives either. Set apart by His grace. Different because we love. Not condoning sin, but not condemning the sinner.
I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not. I’m in love with Jesus, and that’s all the world really needs to see. When I mess up, I can just say so. After all, isn’t that how they will know His love is real?
I’m tired of the mask. It wasn’t all that pretty, anyway.