Caught in traffic and rushing home after a long day, my hungry kids tumbled into our home. In a moment where I wanted control over chaos, I got a loud circus of uncooperative children. So, I gave direct orders, which I’m so good at doing.
“Put up shoes, wash hands, get out homework and wait for dinner to be ready.”
Before I knew it, one kid lost a shoe, another took a toy from the other and one complained about what might be put on her dinner plate. I looked up to see the milk had been left out all day to rot as screams of fighting children bellowed from the other room.
That’s when it happened.
With all the fury left in my exhausted body I called for a kid line up. It was like an out of body experience as I willingly gave myself over to sinful anger. Three little girls positioned themselves along the wall in fear across from me. They knew I was fed up. From deepest deep I summoned the scariest whisper known to man and threatened their precious souls: get into the shape I want or pay my price.
Here’s the deal, I had just left a counseling session with another mom struggling deeply with anger. Her rage spewed out at her children like coke from a shaken can. But between the counseling session and the forced kid line up, my own heart had gathered around the worries of my personal world and began to bow down to the desire for ease. I had just reminded this other mom of Jesus’ grace and his gospel, and yet, here I stood angrily over my children.
I hate this story.
I don’t hate it simply because I sinned, though that’s enough. I hate it because Jesus offers me something so much better than anger. He offers kindness and patience amidst confusion. I had left Jesus’ truth with the other mom.
For a long time my day job has been to help struggling Christians. A big part of this is to minister God’s Word in a helpful, corrective and gracious way to sinners who aren’t trusting and obeying their Savior. I listen to messy lives. I gently root out unfaithfulness, help other’s see it, and then by the Spirit’s power, help weary, rebellious and sometimes, just oblivious sinners, to grow, to find comfort and peace, to obey and to believe God in the practical realities of life.
But the reality is, I’m a sinner too.
And sometimes the very things I counsel others through are the very things I fail at myself. Petty issues of the heart; impatience, contentment, anger, fear and worry. Sin serious enough for Jesus to die for but common enough for us all to grapple with this side of heaven.
This begs the question:
Does being a sinner make me a hypocrite, or does it make me exactly the kind of person God chooses to use as the hands and feet that brings his kingdom?
No one is Jesus.
There are clear qualifications for pastors in Scripture (Titus 1:5-9). It says elders should be a one-woman man, caring for their families. It says he shouldn’t be prideful or quick-tempered. He shouldn’t be getting drunk, be abusive or after money. The good news is, that’s what I want in a pastor. I want it in myself too.
Except, no one can pull this off at every moment of every day, because no one is Jesus.
Pride is subtle and creeps its way in undetected. Anger can bubble over unexpectedly and self-interested leadership can sneak in under the radar. Exhaustion can create new temptations. The long short of it is, a minister must not be dominated by these sins, even if they do sometimes sin in this particular way.
From the church staff to church parking volunteers, no one is Jesus. Every Christian requires immense grace for their heart’s temptations and to regularly confess sin.
If I’m a confessing Christian, then I can be a repenting Christian.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us (1 Jn 1:9-10).
A sign of Christ-likeness is thoughtful and regular confession, not sinlessness. But confessing takes actually knowing what to confess. For instance, everyone is prideful. But my pride lusts and leverages itself differently than yours. Confessing specific problems makes specific repentance possible. To say “sorry for being prideful” doesn’t acknowledge what in particular I’m lusting after. To say “forgive me for manipulatively using my words to control you for my own benefit” is a whole different kind of confession. It acknowledges that I lust for power more than I want Jesus. And, more than I love the human being I’m manipulating to get the power.
If I confess in specifics, then I can specifically repent and genuinely ask forgiveness.
If I’m a repenting Christian, then I’m a changing Christian.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it (1 Thess 5:24).
Authentic repentance comes with eventual change. Christians should be marked as repenters, not as sinless. A person quick to repent and does so without fear of others is one who understands Jesus’ gospel. If you understand the gospel then you know the power for change comes only from the Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead. God has given us what we need to change. He hasn’t left us to ourselves. He’s given us himself.
If I’m a changing Christian, then I’m a confessing and repenting Christian.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Cor 3:18
It didn’t take long for the Holy Spirit to move my conscience after I wickedly spurned my children. We did a second line up, but this time on the couch. I brought them near as I sat before God, asked him to forgive me and for his help. Then I looked at each of them, tried to share the gospel (one is a 2-year-old) and asked each of them to forgive me. Maybe they partly understood, maybe they didn’t. But at the end of the day, it’s not my job to make their hearts understand, it’s my job that they hear and see what it is to be a true follower of Christ: a redeemed hypocrite!
The truth is, every sin is hypocritical if we don’t simultaneously recognize our need for a Savior. Only Jesus is perfect but thank God his overflowing grace points us back to his gospel to help us repent and change, repent and change, repent and change.
Questions for Reflection:
Do you listen when people call out your sin?
Do you get offended when people communicate your sin or do you run to Jesus?
Are you quick to remember to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you?
Are you aware enough of your own heart that you can confess in specifics?
Are you quick to say your sorry but not quick to ask forgiveness?
How often do you spend time dwelling on the gospel story?
Do you think change happens just because or are you willing to take practical steps towards putting off sin and putting on Christ?
What would some of those practical steps be for you in particular?
Do you judge others for hypocrisy?
Make a list of where you are typically quick to judge others. Do you see your own hypocrisy in these areas?