A Christian Dilemma: Hypocrisy Vs. Authenticity

How can we explain the contention between the believer who fails to exemplify his faith through word and action, and the unbeliever who looks down on faith as a fallacy of the age—judging the believer based on the very moral and spiritual grounds they claim to reject in the first place? I would like to take a closer look at this issue here.

IF NO ONE IS PERFECT, THEN WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN?

One of the most tragic arguments baffling the mind of the unbeliever is the idea that once a believer, a person is automatically perfect. The reason this is a fallacy is because no one belief makes a person perfect. Digging deeper still reveals the imperative argument demanding a definition for human “perfection.” Some might expect perfection to come in the form of character or moral pursuit—and if this is so, what does a perfect character with scrupulous moral pursuits look like?  

In my previous article, “Disbelief & Finding My Way Home: Part 2,” I explain what I believe Christianity is. To reiterate, here is how I define Christianity: 

putting my relationship with Jesus first and seeking Him when I forget to do that. Being a Christian means humbly pursuing Him and coming back to Him when I lose track of that pursuit. Christians are not perfect people who have decided to stop pursuing a life of denial, nor do we think we’re perfect because of our decision to accept Jesus; Christians are sinners who recognize their sin and acknowledge their need for a Messiah capable of and willing to extend mercy, grace, and love through sacrificing Himself in order to prevent us from experiencing the eternal judgment that we actually deserve.”

That said, I do not believe faith makes any person perfect; we’re all capable of and prone to flaws—before and after faith. A person’s faith, if anything, gives them more reason to predict their failure to ever become perfect by humbly admitting their need for a Messiah in Christ. Again, if anything, a Christian recognizes more so their need for a Messiah in Christ because of their imperfections. In other words, Christianity doesn’t perfect; it humbles. Where do people get this idea that Christ-followers believe they have everything figured out? From Christians who project their faith as the moral insignia of pride. Let me explain.

MORAL DOMINANCE & FIGHTING THE WRONG BATTLE

When a Christ-follower gets caught in the trap of believing faith-based morality is grounds for ostracism or for criticizing the unbeliever, the humility of their faith as been compromised for the pride in their choices. The tragedy is divulged in how a Christian disparaging atheism’s lack of belief is no more effective or correct than an unbeliever condemning Christianity’s open-mindedness. What needs to be noted here is the dichotomy revealing how the misplaced disparaging of the atheist’s lack of belief allows no room for humility or compassion in the censorious believer. Capitalizing on the belief that one is more right than another does nothing short of mistakenly prove to the unbeliever that what is most important to the Christian is their pride in their beliefs and how it trumps doubt, when in fact the fight is taking place on a different battlefield altogether: The believer is convinced proving their belief to be correct is more important than being a living example of how faith in Jesus as Lord changes one’s life from the inside—which has nothing at all to do with winning arguments, but renewing hearts

The abusive treatment of the believer towards the atheist is ultimately the grounds for which the unbeliever blindly claims faith is a transparent fallacy. Understandably, from this perception—the source of the believer’s faith seems grounded in judgment, condemnation, prideful morality, and the careless freedom to live in the name of a faith which seemingly has no impact on behavior, words, thoughts, or interactions. In other words, a faith which has no bearing on renewing a person’s intrinsic humanity or lifestyle.

THE PURPOSE OF CHRISTIAN METAPHORS 

There are a lot of metaphors used in Christianity. Why? There is a larger reality within grasp which does not present itself to the naked human eye—that which is tangible through the senses of faith itself. What does this mean? This means that the purpose of metaphors in Christianity is to examine that which we can barely fathom with our intellect or imagination, let alone our senses. Not to be misperceived as impossible to the imagination, Heaven itself is used both as a metaphor for the fantastical (where the very nature of painlessness and deathlessness coexist with permanent bliss and happiness) which can be sourced within our very soul through faith in Christ; as well as a literal place and location. Metaphors are not used to divide the truth of the Bible from reality, but to express how such extremities can only be gathered by taking a leap of faith out of our expectations and comfort zones and placing ourselves into the space of hope. Hope for something beyond words, beyond this reality; transcendence.

THE DILEMMA OF IDENTITY AND CHRISTIAN HYPOCRISY

Timothy Keller, in his book Making Sense Of God, writes:

Theologian Miroslav Volf summarizes four ways that we can set and bolster our self-worth by excluding others. We can literally kill or drive the Other out of our living space. A more subtle and common way is exclusion by assimilation. We can demand that they conform completely to our own patterns and standards, not allowing them to express any difference at all. “We will refrain from vomiting you out… if you let us swallow you up.” A third form of exclusion could be called “dominance.” We let you live among us and maintain your identity, but only if you assume an inferior race—not getting certain jobs, attaining particular levels of pay, or living in certain neighborhoods. The fourth kind of exclusion is abandonment. That is, we exclude the Other by disdaining and ignoring them, taking no thought for their needs. The reason we indulge in these attitudes and practices is that by denouncing and blaming the other it gives us “the illusion of sinlessness and strength.”

When a Christian denounces the unbeliever for their doubt instead of loving them in their unbelief, they make the mistake of identifying with the egocentrism of pride rather than the selfless character of Christ. When this happens, pride takes the position of one the four aforementioned reflections of self-worth. But when a believer’s self-worth is not rooted in Christ, it is automatically rooted in the neediness of the world. How then can we be reborn if we still cling to the world? We cannot. We either surrender ourselves by intrinsically and authentically picking up our cross and following Him (rebirth), or we end up abandoning our cross for someone else to bear and call them weak when they won’t even carry their own (claiming the “Christian” title without “walking the walk” of a relationship with Jesus). 

CHRISTIAN FACADES AND PLURALISM

The choice we make (how seriously we take our faith) defines the example we are for the world. When a person claims to be a “Christian” while still clutching the ways of the world, the unbeliever witnesses hypocrisy and assumes this contradiction to be the face of all Christ-followers. While we do not carry the responsibility of every believer in this world, we do bear the witness of every unbeliever in this world. When we do not take seriously our own faith, we leave room for the unbeliever to view the Christian faith as fallible and indistinguishable from secularism. Pluralism itself is made to look foolishly redundant in the face of Christian hypocrisy as the multifarious religious views suddenly blur together into one conglomeration; a mirage of people pretending rather than rebirthing, clutching for dear life their mental volition instead of surrendering their hearts; closing their eyes rather than opening their minds, and believing in the self—which ultimately deteriorates the soul and crushes our most intrinsic need for selfless, unconditional human connection. 

CALLED FORWARD IN CHRIST

We are called to be sons and daughters of the living Christ. We can complicate the picture of what that looks like, or we can come to grips with the reality that it requires a heart full of humility. We cannot grow in Christ if we are climbing a ladder of egocentrism. Even in faith, the boastful soul does not become vanquished until we have received a heart of humility in God the Father. We receive this when we’ve had enough of ourselves. I found myself dead inside during my adolescence and desperately craved a purpose by the time I was 22. I found that purpose in Christ, but only after I realized I needed to let go of my self-made purpose, which ultimately was disguised in self-deprecation and the turmoil of this world.

Moving forward in faith means letting go of the self to make room for Christ, and in so doing, His thoughts become more of our own. We lose nothing—we gain everything. We gain a new perspective, healthier relationships, more fulfilling desires, and a deeper sense of purpose than we could have imagined was possible. Moving forward in faith—to be taken over by such an abundance of surrender, we completely lose ourselves to the call of Christ to run beyond our self-preserved path of narcissistic hedonism, ahead into the light of recognizing our need—not for the world’s attention or validation, but God’s promises to make us new, to make us right, and to fulfill us completely

TAKEN OVER BY FAITH

If we truly have been changed, what does that look like? Compassion, grace, mercy, love, peace, empathy, boldness, faithfulness, gratefulness, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, and selflessness. Altruism merely becomes the floorboards of the character we are called into through Jesus. In so shining our light back to Him, we do not mistake what our faith translates into, but we express to the world how belief in Christ needs to be: All-consuming, all-renewing, and fully satiating. When we understand the love of God, we don’t miss our old selves, we beg for more of His heart to flood our own—and this, truly, is the sweetest form of desperation in this life we will ever come face-to-face with.

LET’S CONNECT

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Darling Downs Diaries

The Origins Of Identity: Understanding Loyalty

Before sentience and pleasure, and before dissension or agreement, there is the denudation of offense and the understanding of character. Simply put, there is identity. Let me explain.

The reason why who we are behind closed doors is so important is because what we do and what we think while no one is watching defines the viability of our loyalty. And why is loyalty so important? A person’s loyalty explains a great deal; such as why a person cares to please, entertain, or to serve “Bob” and not “Sam”. Having a reason for this requires the person being served to be well worth such a commitment. If behind closed doors we cheat on the person whom we claim loyalty to, our choice to renege speaks degradingly low of the person we claim loyalty towards, as well as ourselves. This cheapness of character labels the cheater a hypocrite and liar. Question is, what gives these labels their power? Let’s dig deeper. 

Power derives of respect, admiration, and even appreciation. Therefore our disloyalty would cloud the picture of what we claim to be admirable and respectable, and in turn, poisoning the picture others have of our ability to choose wisely and with careful consideration who or what we are loyal to. To society, disloyalty may represent a shortcoming, a foible, a flaw—the flaw of our ineptitude, our immaturity as a human being, and the inability to understand the significance of the power of loyalty in the eyes of a society seeking to trust an individual’s skill in choosing who to give loyalty to. 

Admiration for and the appreciation of money, may, for example, appear normal to a society desperate to pay its bills and evade financial burdens. But seeking money above all else is idolatry. Even writing that may strike a chord with some readers because those words may appear to claim that the desire for money is automatically a bad thing. But that isn’t what I’m saying, nor is that my point. What I am saying is that the desire for money is normal and appropriate when it is controlled. By controlled I mean there is a goal involved with the attaining of money. In other words, money doesn’t become the goal, money is simply a part of the plan, but not the reward itself. For example, the goal could be to buy a car, and money is needed to buy a car. In this instance, money isn’t the goal, the car is. Perhaps for you, a house is the goal. Once again, money is required, but it is not the goal. See the difference? What this point illustrates is that when people do what they do in order to get more money just to get more money, money is their goal; their idol. 

There are many things in this world people can get attached to, and without these things, they either forget who they are, or never came to truly know themselves to begin with. The question then becomes: Why is this important? 

When we become obsessive and idolatrous over Earthly things, we lose sight of our purpose—if we were ever made aware of something as meaningful as purpose to begin with. For many people, purpose is not a theme or concept that was ever invited into their mind or spirit; they learned their habits only because they were never fulfilled with anything more significant in their life. Their role models and peers were not so ambitious as to understand the significance of encouraging them to discover their unique purpose, nor believing in one of their own. When we learn from people without passion in life, purpose is less than a consideration, and without purpose, who are we? Now we’re getting somewhere.

All of our habits (habits like wanting money just for the sake of having more, like I mentioned above), once formed, can become a person’s definition, and certainly these habits can replace our loyalty to someone or something else. For instance, we would have little or no time for personal relationship with close friends if we were preoccupied with drunkenness, intoxication, under the influence of the psychedelic high of drugs, or unconscious. What we want isn’t to not exist, but to exist fully. Why is any of this important? How does this relate to our identity? How do we know what our identity is?

When we strongly consider our loyalty towards people and the fear we have of being caught (for those who don’t trust themselves), the question of our identity behind closed doors must finish by asking: Whose approval are we replacing with society’s?

We prove it to ourselves how we seek the approval of others if we are afraid of being caught—otherwise there would be nothing to worry about “being caught” with. Loyalty couldn’t retain any power if the approval of people weren’t the bricks in the wall. But in this flow of thoughts, we have sidestepped where loyalty’s origins begin. Truly, we haven’t yet perused the most intricate etching of this concept. The most essential etching of them all is how we put all of this energy and commitment, loyalty and admiration into the world, its things, but we many times forget that before any of us makes the first decision to try a drug, an alcoholic drink (with the intention to get drunk), to lose our virginity, or to allow our body to become invaded with foreign toxins—we have our identity given to us by God. Sometimes this truth causes dissension and provokes people to back away because life appears easier without what seems to be the complication of faith. However, this identity given to us is why morality stings when we make the choice we sense is wrong. This is what begs us to want a friend around when we reach for that bottle of liquor—we want the intimacy (even if the intimacy we want is distorted by the involvement of substance abuse) but we are unaware of how loved we are before we even picked up the bottle. We are loved before we inhale the toxins. We don’t realize we’re desperate for an intimacy beyond sharing toxins and transient, meaningless pleasures with others. The truth is that we take on all these habits to escape because we are unaware of—or placing doubt in—the reality of God. When we are unaware of God, we replace His missing piece with as many pieces as we can find to fit into the size of His void.

What does that tell us about how many habits we feel the need to pick up in order to replace God? 

When we discover smoking, drinking, coitus, or even video games, we find all these things to fill our souls with: Exposure to drug abuse, the flooding rush of dopamine through sex, the entertainment of video games and the fuzzy sensations of drunkenness. The sad truth is that so many people are unaware that this is the process we fall prey to. We pledge our allegiance—that is, our loyalty, which innately belongs to relationship with God the Father through Jesus His son—to these ephemeral experiences because what only God can do, so many countless transient Earthly pleasures must try over and over again, repetitively, to replace. Even with such adamant consistency, these experiences aren’t satisfying: We need them over and over again to remind us (yet they never do so adequately)—otherwise, we’d have our fill. But with God, we pour our desires into Him, we talk to Him, worship Him, read about Him, listen to Him, and desire HIM above all else, and what happens is that all these pointless desires fall away; games may remain fun, but only in small spurts of times; alcohol retains its unique taste for pleasure (even Jesus created barrels of wine! His first miracle—John 2:1-11), but it will not seem worthwhile to become drunk (which is spoken against in the Bible—Galataians 5:21)—and sex becomes special and unique to a marriage relationship blessed under God—not just a promiscuous act of copulation between two emotionally uninvolved strangers seeking anonymous pleasure.

From this article, what I want for you to take away is how loyalty doesn’t start with people, but with God; that God is good, and that all of our experiences from this world could never add up to the thrill, excitement, passion, and purpose of relationship with God through Jesus Christ. I tried this for most of my life—my loyalty was misguided. In fact, for most of my life, I denied Him His existence entirely. Through disbelief, I tried living a life where the only places left to place loyalty were lust, music, and movies (depending on music to influence my character, movie characters to inspire me to be who I am, and lusting after women to keep me impassioned for life) instead of placing all of my loyalty in Jesus as Lord—who is more than capable of doing all three at once! Now I journey after God’s heart to inspire me to be a better man, I declare His will above my own because I trust what He wants is better for me than anything I could never conjure up in my wildest dreams—and I believe patience in His will for me will outweigh every disappointment I’ve ever encountered while trying to search for short-lived pleasures in my past. I’m forever convinced that purpose in Jesus is more fulfilling than any other worldly distraction, and I would love to see others come to understand the difference as well. That is my reason for writing this article and for having a blog at all. I want you to understand how we can find our identity in Christ and discover all that we long for by loving Him above all other things. When we put God first, He lifts us up and blesses us more than we could hope for, and the experience of this lifestyle is more satisfying than you could imagine unless you embrace it for yourself. 

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