“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 13:9).
A charge leveled at Christianity in America today is that the churches are filled with hypocrites. I read in the newspaper the other day a letter to the editor in which a reader said that Christians are filled with hate.
Before simply dismissing such charges with a sniff of the nose in disdain, maybe we Christians ought to discern why people are making these charges. Why, indeed, are the people of God experiencing being labeled with such negativity? There are, of course, some half-truths in the process of being so-labeled. There are, no doubt, some truly hypocritical people in churches, but I doubt that churches are “filled with hypocrites.” Likewise, the reader who wrote that letter to the editor was writing because he supported a gay rights agenda and hated the fact that Christians reject homosexuality as sin.
Nevertheless, some seeds of truth must lie at the heart of the accusations. It is true that Christians CAN be hypocrites; else, the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, would not have written, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” It is to that issue of hypocrisy that I am writing this. Christians, it’s time to do some housecleaning in our spiritual lives. Our spiritual houses are cluttered. We are “majoring on the minors,” putting great energy into things that are lesser, and neglecting that which is greater.
What is the greater thing that we are neglecting?
That we “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and also that we “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).
Someone might object, “But I do love God and people, so how am I a hypocrite?”
What is hypocrisy? It’s saying one thing, but doing another. It’s being double-minded. It’s when our words and actions don’t agree. Jesus’ words to His critics, the Pharisees and scribes, fall on our deaf ears:
“Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me’” (Mark 7:6b).
Did it never occur to us who believe on Jesus that this could be descriptive of us? James wrote to Christians:
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:8-10).
The world hears our words, but they also see our actions. Despite the spiritual bias that inclines them to reject us because we belong to Jesus, there is nevertheless a discrepancy between our words and our actions—and the world knows it. Do we know that we aren’t loving and without hypocrisy? The old Christian saying goes, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” The ancient Roman Empire persecuted the Christians, but they nonetheless saw the love of the Christians toward them, their persecutors, and it turned the Roman Empire on its head.
If anyone reading this feels a stirring from the Holy Spirit that what is written here is individually true then what shall we do? Start with the instruction quoted earlier that James gave us in James 4:8-10: “Let’s humble ourselves before God, and acknowledge our ways. Let’s “cleanse our hands” and “purify our hearts.”
How do we do that? By realizing that sin is a serious matter, and is not to be treated with a joke, a wink, or a laugh. As my pastor once said, “It is never safe to sin.” James wrote:
“Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:8).
We have to face the reality that we can’t keep the status quo. Things can’t keep going on the same as they have been up to now. If we do not “cleanse our hands” and “purify our hearts,” then we are hypocrites. We need to get right with God. Even in the most devoted Christian, there is a discrepancy between who we are and who we need to be. Jesus said:
“Therefore be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
At the heart of the corrective action to which James calls us are his words, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).
I’ll be candid, folks. I need this, too—we all do. I need to humble myself in the presence of the Lord, to be miserable and mourn and weep, to cleanse my hands and purify my heart. Peter wrote:
“For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
Today is such a time for taking inventory of our lives. The world looks at us and calls us hypocrites, and says we are filled with hate. This is not a time for looking at others, but at ourselves.
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
Look again at Paul’s instruction regarding hypocrisy:
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 13:9).
The first part of removing the log from our own eye, is to abhor what is evil. Be repulsed by it. Have no desire toward it. The second part is to cling to what is good. The “cling” here is not to merely nod at the good, acknowledging that it is good. It’s the action of a shipwreck survivor who clings to a floating object for dear life.
James’ instruction is to mourn that “abhorring” action. Acknowledging and confessing our sins is that part to “humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord,” and also to “cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded [i.e., hypocrites].”
Someone might say, “I realize that what you say is true, but it’s too late for me. I’m too deeply in sin to do all that.” Perhaps you, reader, are not a Christian, or consider that once you were, but aren’t sure that it was ever real.
I have good news for you, the best you will ever hear. Overcoming sin is not in our power but it is in God’s power. God offers grace, which simply means a free, undeserved gift; and by His grace, He grants a full pardon and forgiveness for our sins—all of them! No matter how many sins we have, He has exceedingly, abundantly more grace to cover those sins:
“…but where sin abounds, grace does much more abound” (Romans 5:20b, KJV).
Let me say it again. No matter how much sin blackens our souls, God has even more grace to cover and forgive it, to pardon and cleanse us within, and make us clean! When Jesus Christ came to Earth, He came to save us and remove the terrible burden and penalty of sin: death.
“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).
When He went to the cross, He took onto Himself the guilt of us all, and God counted Jesus as being guilty of all the sins ever done by the entire human race (that includes you and me). He bled and died on the cross to win our pardon and to set us free to live lives for God, pure and holy.
“…and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15).
“He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
If you, reader, have not the assurance that your sins are paid for by Jesus Christ, then it’s time you did, don’t you think?
The terms of the contract are simple:
1) You acknowledge that you are a sinner, and you have sinned. This means you deserve death.
2) Jesus paid the complete price of your freedom by dying for the guilt of your sins in your place on your behalf.
3) You place your trust in Jesus and receive Him as your Savior, thereby receiving a full pardon for all your sins, total forgiveness, and eternal life, both here and in heaven.
If you would like to express that transaction with God in prayer, then pray the following.
“Lord God, I am a sinner, and I have sinned. I understand I deserve death as punishment. I recognize now that Jesus stood in my place, and took my punishment for me when He bled and died on the cross for me. I do now trust in Jesus, that He died, was buried and rose again from the dead, and receive Him as my Savior and my Lord. Thank you for the forgiveness of all my sins and eternal life with You. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”
If you meant that prayer, then your sins are wiped clean. You are a new creation. You are in Christ.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Going to the cross of Jesus for the forgiveness that He won for you, means that your hands are now cleansed. Your heart is purified. You are forgiven. You are free. God’s love is now pouring forth from within you.
“…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5b).
Now that God has set you free from your sins, live free. If you abhor what is evil, and cling to what is good, then your love will be without hypocrisy. When temptations come along (and they will—count on it), go back to the basics:
Jesus paid for your sins—all of them—at the cross.
The penalty is fully paid, and God is satisfied.
He forgives you by grace through your faith in Jesus, not by your works, good or otherwise.
Thank Him for forgiving and forgetting (for He does not remember our sins against us).
Resist future temptation by using the “grace” way: Count yourself as dead to that sin, but alive to God through Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).
For example, if you are tempted to drink, and you know it leads to the sin of drunkenness, then the “grace” way means literally saying, “I am dead to drunkenness, but alive to God through Christ Jesus.” If lust is your problem, say, “I am dead to lust, but alive to God through Jesus Christ.”
The apostle Paul repeated this way to resist and overcome temptation as he wrote to the Colossians:
“For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God….Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Colossians 3:3, 5).
Resisting temptation the “grace” way (i.e., acknowledging that you are dead to sin and alive to God) will supply you with many a victory instead of you giving in to it.
If you do sin, then confess it and receive God’s grace for forgiveness because Jesus paid for it already, meaning, He has made propitiation (satisfactory atonement) for your sins.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He himself is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2a).
We started the journey to God by faith. Keep at it by faith, and keep going to the finish line by faith. Be free and live free, in Jesus’ name. Amen!