Christian Character Part 6

Hypocrisy and Judgmentalism

In this series of studies on Christian Character, we need to realize that we have looked at a number of issues, but we have not really focused yet on the foundational concept that what defines Christian Character is the commitment one makes, in humility, repentance and love, to live out the admonition of Jesus to the woman accused of adultery, “Go and sin no more.” But whenever we are making a foundation for something, we have to dig out the trash, dig out the unstable, to get down to hard compaction, to enough density, that we can place our foundation there.

So many Christians have a great deal of trouble with this process, the process of dealing with the artifacts of sin in their lives: the memories of the sins of themselves and of others, the trigger points, the flash points, the woundings and scarrings in themselves and others. And so many Christians can’t get over those things, those chapters of history in their lives, those things that give psychologists and psychiatrists and counselors a job.

When we have a flesh wound, it hurts, it bleeds, it itches as it heals, but even as a young child, we learn that once the wound is cleaned out, and the antibiotic ointment placed, and the bandage pressed in place over the wound, we are okay and our wound will soon be a thing of the past. Young children usually lose their tears as the bandage is removed from its sanitary wrapper, and the backing removed, and the adhesive surfaces of the bandage are pressed into place.

It is not always so, however, with the residue of sin. The country singer of our generation, Randy Travis, in his deep voice, sings with much melancholy the song about “Digging Up Bones”. What he describes is a person who is unable to deal with the losses and woundings and scarrings of the past, a person who keeps the present fully occupied with the pains of the past, a person who can’t leave those old bones buried and done with, but who must take them out and rage and cry over them, a person whose life can’t get to its future because it is a life lived in the person’s past.

In the evolution to maturity of our Christian Character, we must overcome our past or we will stop evolving to maturity. When we stop that evolving, we are stuck in the mud, digging up bones that need to stay buried, and so we stop moving forward in and with our lives. Then we miss out on something vitally important to our fulfillment in life, that which we are encouraged in Ephesians 4:13-15, “. . . til we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and from and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head – Christ– . . . .”

The defining essence of the Christian is love of God and of neighbor, as required by the Great Commandment. Without forgiveness there is no human love, and without God we cannot even learn what forgiveness is. Let’s analyze this a bit: we are all imperfect: it takes little living in life to know that because we usually first figure that out about ourselves, and rather quickly we figure that out about those who are role models, usually those in our very family! And, in a Christian family, we learn that our family is trying to teach us by word and example about Christ, to introduce us to him that we might make Christ our real role model. But what so often gets lost in the translation is that we decide that our difficulties in emulating Christ, in following him as our role model, are because are human role models are hypocrites, not perfect in all their past or present, and certainly, therefore, not likely to be perfect in all their future. And when we see that sin of the past, even that sin of the present, we are tempted by the deceiver to hold our human role models in contempt, to judge them as unworthy, as failures, and then not to forgive them. The conclusion so often reached is that those human role models are unloveable, once we have discovered their clay feet.

We see that conclusion so often reached in the fall from favor of public figures, of politicians, of athletes, of the Jim Bakers, and the Jimmy Swaggarts, of ordinary mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters all across the land.

If you get stuck in this place, your progression to Christian Character, to the fullness of Christ, to maturity in Christ, is just that, it is stuck, and stuck in the mud, and may even be going backwards if you are not soon rescued from it.

If you are in that place, if there is anyone in your life against whom you hold any grudge, any speck of unforgiveness, anyone from whom you have chosen to withhold love because of how they treated you, or treated someone else you love, or treated God, then today is a day for you to dig out of the mud, to dig out of the ditch and move on with Christ at the center of your life, from glory to glory! Hallelujah, today is the day for you!

In Matthew 7: 1-5, we are admonished to examine our own state of perfection, our own state of sinlessness or sinfulness, applying the measure of Christ to evaluate our personal maturity. This passage reads, as Jesus explains to us, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

What Jesus is telling us that whenever we judge the hypocirisy in another’s life, we are judging ourselves to be the same, also a hypocrite, unless we have removed the plank from our own eye. Jesus is saying that we should not condemn our brother before we have measured ourselves against the fullness of Christ, and found ourselves perfect, complete and mature. Then, the underlying message in this passage is that we will see our brother, the one (all of them) with the speck in his eye, differently than when we had a plank in our own eye: when – if (a huge “if”) we ever get the planks out of our own eyes, then we will truly see our brother as Christ seems him: not willing to condemn our brother in judgment for his hypocrisy, but loving our brother enough, even in his sin, to die for him that his sins might be forgiven. That is how much God loves us, and how much Jesus loves us, and how obedient Jesus was — to die for us. It was in that act, in that process, that God’s grace was extended to us even though in his omniscience, he know of our specks and planks and loved us enough anyway to die for us and to forgive us. We are called to do nothing less for our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, and our other imperfect human role models. This calling is the true measure of our maturity in Christ, the calling to love each other in spite of themselves and in spite of ourselves. And how we measure up to this calling, in our actual lives, is a measure of whether we will continue in our sin of not loving others in spite of themselves and in spite of ourselves, and that is how we can get out of the trap of Romans 6:1-2.

But here is the problem: most of us can’t dig the trash out of our own lives and bury it at the Cross, completely enough to get all those planks out of our own eyes, and so we remain conflicted with all those we love, with all those who have tried to be our human role models, and in that conflict we wallow in a pollution of love, a love where forgiveness is incompletes and where, as a result, love is incomplete.

Now, do you see why Dr. Dobson’s research shows that Christian families are about as likely as non-Christian families to suffer divorce. Divorce is devastating in all aspects of family, of human life: emotional, financial, spiritual and even in physical health. So why wouldn’t Christians do better in our marriages and families? It is because we won’t let go of the old bones of sin and hurt, the old bones of hypocrisy we see in our loved ones, and so our anger rages, and the grass looks so much greener on the other side of someone else’s fence, and the eyes wander to evil things, even as the heart beats in bitter un-forgiveness and broken love. How do I know this? I know it, as many of you know, because in my immaturity in Christ, I was there, I have been through that, and suffered others to go through that, and I have received God’s forgiveness and thus been empowered to move on with His calling on my life. David took Uriah’s wife and killed Urriah so he could keep Bathsheba, and, then in repentance, David received God’s forgiveness and moved on with God’s calling on his life. However, in my case, and in David’s case, indeed in all cases of sin, there are consequences and impacts, personally and generationally that still have to be dealt with. In God and Christ you will learn and be empowered to deal with sin, and sin repented, and sin forgiven, and not live your lives stuck in the sin of the past, but, in spite of yourself, moving on with God’s calling on your life.

Now, for sure, there is a place where God allows divorce in marriage, and that is for cause of adultery (Matthew 5:32) just as there is a place where He, with great regret, allows people, in free will, to be separated from Him in spiritual adultery (Rev. 2:22). God knows well that love is based on free will, on choices made, and He honors choices of fidelity and rejects choices of infidelity.

So, what do we do about this, what do we do about ourselves and our brothers and sisters? God’s instruction is for us not to let our brother’s sin (his speck in the eye) be an obstacle to our repentance (our plank in the eye). There is only one way to avoid making hypocrites of our selves as we judge others to be, or to have been, hypocrites: that is to see others as God and Christ see us, in grace extended in unmerited favor. Small wonder that C.S. Lewis always said, when asked how he was doing, how things were going for him, in honest humility, “better than I deserve.” God, in Christ, applies grace to our lives, and when we accept Christ, God is willing to apply all of his strength, all of his knowledge, all of his presence, all of his love to his call on our lives and to our perfection in Christ. We are called to do no less with our human loved ones, indeed to humans God calls us to in ministry. God does not plan for us to live in arrogance and pride, but in humility, not in the assurance of our personal greatness or talents or goodness, but in the assurance of His love for us, not in the hope and record of our own success, but in the knowledge of our own failure, our own failures, our own planks, not in judgment of others, but with the grace and compassion of God and Christ given to others, not as a hypocrite viewing the hypocrisy of others, but as a sinner viewing the sin of others, in love, with the hope of forgiveness and salvation, with the hope of the development in us and our loved ones, and others – even our enemies – of maturity (completion, perfection) to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Figuring all this out, and adopting it into how we live is a major marker of growth of our Christian Character: it is the marker that empowers us in humility and love to live outside of, and beyond, the anger, the rage, the confusion, the fear, the distrust, of the sins in our past, those sins of our own and those of which we were victims. Everyone has a past, none are perfect. Everyone has been harmed in their past, even – maybe even especially – by loved ones, human role models who failed. For your own sake, for the sake of God’s love of you, of Christ’s death for you, forgive yourselves for the sins of your past, forgive those who you think have hurt you in their own sins, and in humility keep those planks coming out of your own eyes, forgiving others instead of judging them for faults, sins, that you share with them.

God is good and gracious and His mercy is eternal. Jesus made it freely available to you. Take, eat and drink, it is the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation! Love others, and yourselves, as Christ loves you!!