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28 January 2012

What To Do With Those Stinking Hypocrites

Some people are worth our help, our grace, and our forgiveness. But some are worthless. Right?

No? I fear that evidence in our lives proves that many of us hold to this philosophy.

Over the past couple of years I've had the opportunity to share some of my past -- some things of which I'm not at all proud -- with a few brothers in Christ. Not at some group confessional, but in one-on-one situations when I've felt that some of my screw-ups (rather, their solutions) would help those friends in situations they've been going through.

The reason they're able to listen to those stories and not write me off as a completely dispicable person is that they know I'm not still that guy. I've had to repent of some big things, and now my goal, my desire, is to continually change to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Some of you, probably most of you, would give me that same grace given current conditions. You may know me personally or have read enough here to know that I don't want to be the old Dean anymore, and that God has done some serious things in my life. He's made minor and massive "adjustments" that were painful to me, seemed illogical, and weren't even changes I wanted for myself.

But what if you knew me when I was going through those situations? What if you knew that I called myself a Christian yet I did things that completely belied that description; things you'd probably call "evil" without a second thought? (No, I've not killed anyone or done anything nearly so heinous as that.)



You'd probably call me a hypocrite, at best. You'd likely choose not to associate with me, and I can't really say I'd blame you. You might even tell others to stay away from me, that I was deceitful and shameful. Some of you might use "sentence enhancers" to describe me. Surely you'd talk negatively about me in hushed tones (to other Christians, which would mean it wouldn't be "gossip," of course).

Chances are good that you know someone like this right now. When you read what I just wrote you probably thought about him, and it's quite possible he isn't even as "bad" as I was. Maybe it's the deacon who pretends to be a good guy but he's actually a complete jerk and has a foul mouth and a temper. Or the lady who has a plaque with a Bible verse on her desk at work but is an overbearing, loud, self-centered witch. (You can't exactly say that aloud, but you've thought it.) It could be the friend who "goes to church" but tells racist jokes and has zero to do with Jesus the other 166 hours of the week.

You know, those people. The ones you generally want to have nothing to do with.

During the thick of things in my life, I had two friends who were believers who knew me well. They knew what I was doing and they knew the facade I put up. Do you know what they did? They didn't call me a hypocrite and hate me. They knew I was a hypocrite and loved me anyway. They didn't express that love by trying to expose my sin to others or by putting a good distance between themselves and me. They showed it by praying that God would expose my sin however He wanted to and would bring me to repentance, and by directly confronting me with my sin and doing so with compassion -- not condescension.

Few people seem to have the conviction or audacity to do that. I'm glad those two friends did, though. Because of their reactions to my sin, God changed my life forever. Immediately? No, it took time. More than they probably thought it would. Turns out those guys were in it for the long haul. I will always be grateful for that.

So about the dad who's a professed Christian but is a verbal tyrant to his wife and kids... Yes, it is your business if you call yourself a believer. The girl who lies about people -- and lied about you... She may unfortunately be your sister in Christ, which puts you in the hot seat.

If your impulse is to disassociate yourself from a brother, to avoid him, to write him off, to be disgusted, I submit that it's more likely (with some exceptions, though they are just that -- exceptions) that the Word tells you to do the opposite of those things. It's not your "privilege" to decide which people are worthy of your help. It's your duty as a follower of Christ to live out the same grace God has shown you over and over.

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are Godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. - Galatians 6:1-3 (NLT)

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