From hypocrisy to freedom!
If you’ve heard my testimony, you know that as soon as I was old enough to stay home from church, I did. My parent’s church was boring. Full of shiny, happy, well-dressed people, who looked great on the outside but seemed a little too flawless to be real. Church to me was just a place where people went on Sundays to pretend their lives were perfect and even at a young age that didn’t sit well with me. It all felt fake.
In my teen years I tried attending another church. This church was interesting to say the least – lots of experiences, very little depth. It was certainly way different than my parents’ boring, dry, lifeless church. This church had a vibrant youth group which drew me in. Friday nights were full of fun activities that seemed innocent enough, but everyone was still doing things that didn’t really line up with their Sunday morning personas. They didn’t curse as much as my high school friends, but they still cursed and felt rebellious when they did. Drinking and sex still took place, they just hid it better and didn’t brag about it as much as those I went to school with. As I got to know the parents of the youth kids, I soon realized they were not the people who showed up for church on Sunday mornings either. Everyone was striving to look one way on the outside, but deep down they were massively flawed and broken. They constantly tried to out do one another in looking holy, spiritual, or sinless, but it was all a façade, fake.
That was it for me; I was done with church and all it’s fake people. Way too much hypocrisy! Besides, living for myself seemed to be way more fun and being open and honest about who I was seemed way more real. I was sinful through and through and there was nothing I wasn’t willing to try. I wore my lifestyle like a badge of honor. Unlike those fake people I used to go to church with, who tried to hide their behavior, I lived mine on full display. Just like Billy Joel says, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners, than cry with the saints.” Especially if those “saints” were fake.
The next 15 years were all about me and what I wanted, nothing else really seemed to matter. I was in my early 30’s, with a wife, two kids, and a good career. I was living the dream – but on the inside I was miserable and dying. Then all of a sudden, Twyla decided our kids needed to go to church. This seemed very strange, considering that beyond a few random times, she never set foot in a church growing up, and with all my negative experiences I certainly wasn’t promoting it. Nonetheless, she was determined to take our kids to church, so there we were, sitting with the rest of the fakes. In the beginning I tried everything to get out of going – work, sickness, sometimes flat out refusing, but there I was again, back in a church, sitting in a pew, looking at all the hypocrites.
This went on for a few weeks – me begrudgingly dragging myself to church with the worst attitude ever. I knew enough to know that it was best to put on a fake smile, shake hands, and pretend to be perfect. That’s just what you do when you go to church. Then I would sit down in my spot and start to judge everyone. I was good at pointing out everyone’s faults and flaws. In my mind, I would make fun of the way they sang or raised their arms in worship. I would judge their prayers and how self-righteous they all tried to act. Sunday after Sunday, I would tear apart their facades in my mind, calling them out for the fakes and hypocrites they were, all the while feeling pretty smug about myself.
Then it happened. One Sunday, in all His grace, love, mercy, and holiness, God dropped a bomb on me.
“What about you, Jason?” What about your hypocrisy? What about your mask? What about the fact that you come in here every week pretending to be something you’re not, and you call them the hypocrites!!! Now it’s time to deal with Me!
In His infinite kindness, with the full weight of His glory, He torn off my mask and exposed me to my own sinful, black, heart. He revealed to me that I had been judging His church not by the perfection of His Son, who was the head of it, but by the broken people in it, who His Son came to save. Of course, the church is full of broken people, where else are they to go to find healing!
I was finally able to find true freedom from the hypocrisy. Not the hypocrisy of those around me, but the hypocrisy that plagued my own heart. God showed me, I have too much junk of my own to worry about focusing on theirs. Matthew 7 became all too real for me and I had to embrace the fact that the church is all about who’s the Head and not how broken the body is. He also freed me to have compassion for others and be able to pray for them. I’d love to say I never judge anymore but that would be lie. However, God continues to refine me and is showing me it’s impossible to keep my eyes fixed on Christ and judge others at the same time. When we get our eyes off the horizontal and fix them on the vertical, then we can truly move from hypocrisy to freedom!