The word, Hypocrite, is used only in the Gospels and it is used only by Jesus. It was a Hellenistic term used to refer to the masks that actors & rhetoric wore when performing poetry and other genres. It means “pretender or [literally] two-faced” since they were wearing two faces.
It is interesting that Jesus is the only one of the New Testament speakers to use the term. Peter, Paul, John, nor any of the other apostles used this term. But it does not mean that the act of hypocrisy was any less. And certainly it continues to put itself on display even today.
The Church earned this derogatory term with actions such as the Spanish Inquisition and KKK. But our generation has added to the fumes. We credited to our name the sexual immorality of the Catholic Church and other Protestant clergy. The exploitation of the poor and others by Televangelists. And those who insist on showing up to desecrate the memory of fallen soldiers.
The rest of the Church has work to do to redeem the Church for the sake of the Gospel.
We could begin by praying the words of the prophet, Daniel,
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame”.
There are two principles that can keep us from falling into the hypocrisy trap.
One is confession. We, the faithful, need to confess the sins of our fellow brothers & sisters in Christ for the sake of the Gospel. We also need to confess our own sins. Our relationship with Christ begins when we confess our sins. Confession keeps us humble. It keeps us open to transforming grace. We also need to confess to one another. James reminds us that when we confess our sins to one another, healing begins to take place. And the Church needs a little more healing. We need to be a healing people.
The second is accountability. We need one another to hold us accountable. I know we think we are islands unto ourselves. We “pull ourselves up by our own boot straps”. But Jesus never intended it that way. It is not a Biblical worldview. Instead, we are called to “bear one another’s burdens”. It is the word picture of a three-legged race. We need to tie ourselves to one another if we are going to make it.
For those who have fallen into hypocrisy, there is a resounding NO when asked if these two principles were active in their lives. Let’s be the Church. Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise the Father in heaven. Make confession and accountability principles of your life. And hold tight to Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of your faith!