This is not a threat taken from that great film "A Knight's Tale" starring the last Heath Ledger. (You need to watch it to understand this.) Nor is it a question about colostomy bags, which are a miserable experience for those who have to have one. Rather it's an issue raised by my Bible study this morning.

Hypocrisy. It's a spiritual killer. Not just for the hypocrite but also for those they disillusion.

Of course the world is full of hypocrisy. We daily hold people to standards that we never even try to meet ourselves. We might think that the golden rule ("Do to others as you would have them do to you.") is a cracking idea. But we don't apply it to the way we treat our wives or children or colleagues or fellow road users or other shoppers.

But the Hypocrisy that I was particularly struck by was the desire to appear better than we are. To want people to have an image of us that is not the reality. We clearly do this cosmetically all the time. People fill in the cracks. Cover up the spots. Highlight the cheek bones.

More dangerous than cosmetic cover up is moral cover up. The way that, as Christians, we claim that our sin is so serious that the perfect Son of God had to die for it, but then seem to spend a lot of time trying to convince people that our sin isn't that much of an issue at all.

Jesus said, ‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23:27-28)

He condemns the religious leaders of his day who were very concerned about their outward appearance but not the state of their hearts. They were more interested in what others thought of them than what God thought of them.

The answer to hypocrisy isn't moral perfection. Nor is it lowering your (or God's!) standards to a point where they are finally achievable. It is humility.

If we want people to see what a great Saviour Jesus is, we need to be willing to tell them how much we have been saved from. If we want people to know how extraordinary the love of God, we need to tell them understand how unloveable we are. 

But humility is primarily demonstrated not through words. But in actions. It is shown by  our willingness to put others before ourselves. Just before Jesus launches into attacking the hypocrisy of the religious leaders he says this:

"The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12)

True greatness is not seen in self-promotion or self-service, but rather in the willingness to humble self to serve others.

It is only when we are willing to admit what we really are, that we will look to Christ on the cross for us, and find the transforming power of his Grace, by which he makes us into who we should be. 

 

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