Christian Hypocrisy

The word hypocrisy means “under a mask.” Greek actors (called, in Greek, hypocrites) held masks over their faces to let the audience know the emotion they wanted to portray. Everybody knew what they were doing, so there was no actual deceit involved. The actor may have had a bad morning, but for the matinee he could simply hold a happy mask over his anger or his tears. Alternatively, he might be ecstatic about the birth of his first child, but at that evening’s performance had to put a sad mask over his joyful heart.

Hypocrisy is acting like who you aren’t, just like the biblical Pharisees. Jesus called them hypocrites because they faked looking good and hid their evil hearts. Their act may have been purposely deceitful or they may have actually believed they were good, but Jesus knew better. Whitewashed tombs, He called them – nice on the outside but rotten within. They pasted good acts over evil intentions. God tells us not to imitate the Pharisees. We’re not supposed to do phony things like pretend kindness when we’re really trying to take advantage of someone.

But there’s a deeper hypocrisy that most Christians never recognize: for a Christian, sin is hypocrisy. Why? Because when Christians sin they are acting like who they aren’t. Let me explain.

God says that when we join to Jesus He gives us a new identity: He transforms our very self, making us glorious at the depths of our being. Most Christians don’t believe any such change has occurred. Most think they’re still rotten to the core. But Christians are not sinners – not any longer. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we don’t ever sin; I’m saying that we no longer should identify with our sin. This is important. Sin doesn’t describe who we are, but who we were. Paul’s repeated “no longer I” statements (Romans 7:17, 20) make that abundantly clear.

Hypocrisy is acting like who we aren’t. For a Christian, sin is hypocrisy.

Do we need to recognize when we sin? Yes, we do. Do we need to turn from our sinful acts? Of course. Must we sorrow for our sin? Yes, we must. But should we believe that our acts of disobedience prove that we still are shameful beings? Absolutely not. Our sin no longer defines who we are. God defines who we are. And He says He has made us new and clean and holy. Even if we believe we are still sinners, Jesus knows better. He knows that sin contradicts our new selves. Sin, for a Christian, is a hypocritical act: it pastes evil over a newly good heart.

Salvation makes us so radically new that God calls us “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But when we sin? Then we’re acting like we’re still our old, pre-Christian selves. Each time we sin, we (like the Pharisees) are acting like who we aren’t; we’re hiding our new hearts behind an ugly mask. The Bible doesn’t specifically call this “hypocrisy” … but is it so different a phenomenon?

A Few Questions for Christians

  • Are you convinced that God has made you a new creation – that you, the real you, resemble Jesus?
  • Have you ever considered that each time you sin you’re committing “Christian hypocrisy”?
  • How would your behavior towards others change if you accepted the fact that God has given you a new and glorious self?

Christian Hypocrisy
© Lynne Fox, 2013


6 thoughts on “Christian Hypocrisy

  • September 11, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    I’d like to explore how we Christians can avoid being hypocrites? God has made us new; the old is gone and we are new creations. If the truth about us is that we are clean and new through Christ, how do we reconcile that with the truth of our sin? Well, when we confess our sin to other people, there is no hypocrisy occurring.

    Lynne, you point out that Romans 7:17 says, “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” Hallelujah! My spirit has been made clean and that is the most real part of myself. My spirit, made clean through the blood of Jesus Christ, is the most real part of myself, which will live with God forever. Yet it is at war with my flesh, a flesh that I am stuck in while on this earth, a flesh which stubbornly persists in sinning. Thank you, Jesus, for the abundant and sufficient forgiveness You earned for us!.

    Still, HOW can I avoid hypocrisy? How can I proclaim my spirit is clean while the sin of my flesh is easily observed by a world who needs Jesus but doesn’t want Him?

    There is a way! John 3:20-21 says “(20)For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (21) But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” The difference between the two people described here is the willingness to have sin exposed to others by the light of Jesus! Both groups described here have sin. But the first group hates the light, preferring to continue practicing evil, choosing to keep that evil hidden by staying away from Jesus. They are still enslaved to sin, to the flesh, to worldly desires. The Pharisees managed to keep good reputations with people while lying about their sin and rotting hearts; they hated the Light of Jesus.

    But the second group, described in verse 21, chooses to stand with Jesus because they are willing to expose their sin so that others will see the truth. Jesus is light. We can’t stand with Him without having His light shine on our sin, so that everyone sees it. Therefore, every time we step into Jesus’ Light, we expose our sin. In an everyday practical sense, that means others can see our sin, because we confessed it. We hold up our sin to the light and tell our neighbor, “Do you see this sin of mine? That behavior is not how God wants me to live, because that behavior separates me from God and leads me to death. I can tell you so because I have Jesus’ forgiveness and new life. Therefore I confess and repent.” This is the practical truth choice that we are called to practice.

    1 John 1:7-9 explains again “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This promise that God will forgive us comes in the context of being in the Light with other believers. In this context, we must confess our sins. When we confess our sins to each other, He will forgive us!

    Confession of sins is a proof of our faith, evidence that our new life in Jesus is real, and we have rejected the old fleshly life which will suffer spiritual death. Because we believe there is no condemnation for sins, Romans 8:1, we are free to confess in the Light of Jesus, according to God’s ways, that we may receive God’s power to repent, to turn away from sin. James 5:14-16 exhorts us to confess to each other in the church, that we may be healed. Matthew 5:21-24 emphasizes the importance of confession and forgiveness with someone whom I have offended. So every time we confess our sins to someone, we are a testimony in action of the reality of Jesus’ forgiveness and new life.

    When we practice exposing the truth, we show we do not seek to glorify ourselves, but we live to glorify the God who has saved us. And God’s grace provides the miracle we need, that when we step into the light, God gives us grace and truth, which removes our shame and condemnation, and changes our heart to want His righteousness. And the fruit of our transformation, real acts of love through Christ, will be seen as “wrought by God,” produced through His redemptive work in us. In the Light of Jesus, the truth of new holy life and of the war with sin is reconciled by His grace. In this there is no hypocrisy.

    Dear Lord, Please help me practice truth, by confessing my sins to others, so that I am not a hypocrite, but wholly devoted to pursuing my new life in Jesus, the Light of the world!

    • September 11, 2015 at 5:14 pm

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I wrote this to encourage freedom from feeling we have to try and hide our sins because they no longer define who we are. And, of course, people can usually see our sins even if we don’t acknowledge them. Confession is commanded, but there’s the question of whether confession is always to people or sometimes just to God. I think that it may at times be helpful to confess to other people, but sometimes it’s wiser to keep it between us and God (who always wants us to agree with Him.) Guess I’ll have to write another post on the subject!

      • September 14, 2015 at 1:37 pm

        I admit I’ve been wrestling with the subject of to whom we must direct our confessions, can’t you tell! 🙂 I appreciate the distinction you make! I am so very glad my sin does not define me. I am so very glad that God has made clean, a new creation! Thanks, Lynne.

        • September 14, 2015 at 1:47 pm

          You’re welcome. And, as you can probably tell, I’ve struggled with this myself.

  • September 11, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Reading this post was such a good and bracing reminder of the truth. I love the way that you have expressed the reality of who we are and our changed relationship to sin in an understandable way. Thank you!!

    • September 11, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      Glad it was understandable. To think that we don’t have to hide our sin – what a freedom!


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