By Brock Bondurant
1 Peter 2:1 – So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and slander.
Have you ever been called a hypocrite?
And the person who said that to me was right. I do the things I think shouldn’t be done and don’t do the things that I think should. I and others like me are to blame when people say, “I can’t follow Jesus because Christians are hypocrites.”
Those who say that aren’t wrong. But Christ-follower or not, I think we are all guilty of that judgement.
I recently listened to a sermon that said to disregard Jesus for the failings of his followers is a bit self-righteous. The pastor cited the way the earliest believers in Jesus didn’t turn away because of the actions of Judas (a member of Jesus’ small group that turned to betray him leading to Jesus’ death).
This got me thinking…
Why? Why didn’t people turn from Jesus when his followers, like Judas, all went astray?
First, maybe Jesus’ disciples realized their own moral bankruptcy. Perhaps they were able to look inwardly at their own lives and identify with Paul in Romans 7:
18For I know that nothing good dwells in me… I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
I feel you brother Paul!
When you understand your own imperfection, you can more easily give that same grace to others who need it just as much as you. Too often, I want justice for others in their wrongdoing and grace for myself when I screw up. This is just another instance of my own hypocrisy.
The next reason is precisely why the new Church gained traction following the betrayal, death, and resurrection of Jesus: their eyes were not on Christ’s followers, but fixed upon Christ himself.
If everyone was looking at Judas, critiquing Christ for the actions of one of his disciples, then no one would have followed Jesus.
A more positive example of this is the writer of our verse this week (1 Peter 2:1), Peter. His story ends a bit differently than that of Judas.
Peter was Jesus’ closest friend and yet Peter denied knowing Jesus three times in the lead up to the resurrection. Talk about a letdown. But unlike Judas, Peter came back to Jesus after he had gone astray. Peter was reinstituted by Jesus (John 21:15-19) and then became the leader of the new Church, preaching the first sermon of the new age, and writing the letters we refer to as 1 Peter & 2 Peter.
So, what’s the point?
The point is that even if we know the way, we all fall short. Even those of us who follow Jesus will still fall short, every one of us. But, we won’t get in the way of the Kingdom – His Kingdom – because we are not the point; He is. Christ will still reach those with hearts open to him. Even with this, we should listen to Peter as he tells us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15), and to put away all hypocrisy. Always strive to practice what you preach. Better yet, always strive to practice what Jesus preaches.
This also challenges us to not make idols of people. That pastor, athlete, artist, mentor who you love so much will ultimately fail you – not because they’re bad, but because they’re human, like you. So then, let us fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2).
Finally, extend grace to others. We are all in need of that sweet grace of Jesus. So before passing judgement, before disregarding someone, consider how much you have been forgiven. Then use that same measure towards others.
We’re all hypocrites. But that is not reason enough to deny Jesus, or our fellow human.