Trying Not to Act Like an Addict
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Matthew 15:8
In our diseased behavior, most addicts struggle with honesty and integrity. We believe drug abuse/dependency is evil, but we still, we wallow in it. In our addiction, most of us are hypocrites. Today’s passage about hypocrisy then, hits close to home. In the passage, Jesus, pointing to the Pharisees, insisted that they followed God only with their lips, not with their actions. They said the right words, but they didn’t live them.
As I was thinking about the passage yesterday, I had two very different experiences. First, as I scanned the morning news, I read about a “missionary” who founded an orphanage in a foreign country and then used his position to abuse the young girls under his care. He claimed to follow God, but his actions revealed him to be a sexual predator. As horrible as his hypocrisy was, I felt pretty good in comparison. At least I’m not like that monster.
Later in the day though, I met a true follower of God who has surrendered the good life here, moving to another foreign land to build authentic orphanages and churches while his wife provides obstetric care to the impoverished. This couple has taken very seriously the command to love their global neighbors. In comparison to them, I didn’t feel quite as good about my faith. I claim to follow God, but I’m still pretty self-centered.
Today’s passage though isn’t about comparison and it isn’t something I apply to others. It’s something I must point at my life. What do I believe? Do I live that way, or am I a hypocrite? Being a Christian means that I follow his prescribed way of life. I don’t want to continue to live like I did in my addiction, with my actions contradicting my beliefs. If I find that my behavior is inconsistent with my faith, then I must make some changes. If I think that I’m living the Christian life perfectly, then I have a profound honesty and pride problem.
None of us live perfectly. We’re all hypocrites in one way or another. Thankfully, there is always grace and forgiveness when we fail. Jesus’ words though, should cause us to examine our lives, asking ourselves if we are living what we say we believe. Do we just claim to be Christians, or do we actually follow Christ?