Thursday, May 18, 2006


A Sermon presented in High School Chapel
Chapel May 18, 2006

C. S. Lewis once said: “that if you ask a middle-aged moralist to speak you shouldn’t be surprised if he engages in middle-aged moralizing.” Well, I’m middle-aged and with a Ph.D. Educational Philosophy my credentials as a moralist are firmly established. So, you will have to forgive me if, true to my age and training, I sound like I’m moralizing.

Once again following Mr. Lewis, I believe that moralists like to talk about one of three subjects that the King James Bible calls “The World, The Flesh and the Devil.” I could probably pontificate all day on any of these; but, because we have limited time and I know that many of you have somewhere to be today after chapel, I’m going to choose only one and be brief and to the point.

In fact I’m only going to speak about a very specific part of one of these. I am going to speak to you today about the sin of Hypocrisy of the heart which I think should be placed under the general rubric of “The Flesh.”

This type of Hypocrisy is a sin of the flesh because we treat our hypocrisy as though it were an adulterous lover not a spouse for this Hypocrisy is both unfaithful to us and causes us to be unfaithful to our true love. Hypocrisy of the heart brings us nothing but sorrow and tears while promising pleasure and love. It leads us to misery and ruin; yet, we are blind to our love’s faults and wait eagerly for even the most casual of glances or roughest of touches because we long for the security and praise that we hope our love will provide.

The type of hypocrisy that I want to speak of today is the hypocrisy of the heart that we commit when we selectively compare ourselves to the weaknesses of others to make ourselves look better, morally superior or to justify our sinful lifestyle. I am not speaking of the hypocrite for whom there is merely a behavioral disconnect between belief and practice. But, the Hypocrisy that allows us to believe the lies we want to believe about ourselves.

This is the true reason we love Hypocrisy. It allows us to ignore the ugly truth of our sin.

You, I, and everyone else in the room are this type of hypocrite at some point, probably many points everyday. Hypocrisy of the heart is, in fact, our first love, and the love we need to leave. Because we treat Hypocrisy as our love it would not be amiss to label hypocrisy a form of spiritual adultery. Indeed that is how I am approaching the subject today.

I am not moralizing about hypocritical Christians per se, but the hypocrisy all of us engage in, regardless of our religiosity to boost our own self-esteem or as an excuse for our own moral failures. This is the most basic of human flaws and has been committed by almost everyone throughout all time

We not only love Hypocrisy, we are jealous paramours who actively seek out and expose others who are involved with our love. We do this because we need our love to tell us that we are unique, special or better than all the others who seek our love’s favor. We are always willing to excise the love of hypocrisy of others but never deal with our own. Because taking Hypocrisy as our love allows us to sooth our conscience, sanctify our failings and ignore our guilt.

A prominent example of a hypocrite in this regard is actually the Apostle Paul. Look at the different picture that Paul paints of his actions before he became an apostle and the picture that Luke paints of some of those same actions.

Paul says of himself in Philippians Chapter 3:

“If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”

The career of Paul in a slightly less rosy light in chapter seven of the book of Acts where Luke writes:

“When they had driven Stephen out of the city, the Pharisees began stoning him; and the Pharisees laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

Paul, or Saul as he is known in the Passage, was a hypocrite of the worst kind. We can, perhaps have some respect for the actual Pharisees. They were obeying the precepts of their religion as they understood them. As murder was against the law in the Roman Empire it took some courage to stone a man to death in public. But, it is hard to respect Paul in this. He just held the coats. He wasn’t even a diligent Pharisee. I can just hear his thoughts. “If the Roman soldiers come and arrest someone for murder I can say, ‘Hey, I wasn’t helping, what could one man do to stop this anyway? But, if they don’t come I can say I helped kill this guy’”

Paul was not only a hypocrite, he was a coward. So, even as a Pharisee, much less as an apostle Paul was a hypocrite. He wasn’t blameless; he wasn’t even as good as the Pharisee’s. To be honest, I am taking Paul’s words in Philippians slightly out of context but the point is still valid.

This first love, our hypocrite nature, deceives us even when we are doing evil. Hypocrisy allows us to believe that we are both better and worse than we really are. What vile companionship hypocrisy actually provides us!

All of this, while important is secondary to my point today which is: we don’t want to find non-hypocrites. We don’t want to find them because we know how badly both we and our love would look in comparison. Non-hypocrites reveal our love as self-centered, cruel and untrue. They would reveal us as weak, trite and immature. We also suspect that if we find a non-hypocrite we will be compelled to leave our hypocritical love but, are too afraid to because we enjoy the comfort we wrongly think that hypocrisy provides.

Luckily for you and me the non-hypocrite is a rare breed indeed.

In the whole of the Bible there are only three people, that I know of who were not hypocrites. Each one of them has something to tell us and, if taken chronologically, each one makes us more uncomfortable than the last.

The first non-hypocrite mentioned is Enoch. He appears for only a few verses in the chapters four and five of Genesis. The last mention of Enoch is in verse 24 of Chapter five:

“Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

Enoch never died. He was taken to Heaven and as lovers of hypocrisy, this bothers us. We don’t want to meet a non-hypocrite because they remind us that while Hypocrisy may be our love here; that love cannot continue beyond death. We are, as the philosopher Martin Heidegger reminds us, utterly and irrationally afraid of death. Heidegger understood that our fear of death is part of what defines our humanity. Indeed, it is one of the things that sets’ us apart from animals. What Heidegger did not understand is that we are afraid of death because we are hypocrites not because we cannot understand it. As hypocrites, we understand the nature of death far too well.

We know, at a very deep level that this lover in whose arms we sinfully lay will not protect us from death. We find it disturbing that there are, or might have been people like Enoch who have not experienced death which shows us how weak our love really is. We are afraid that there is a love more permanent than ours and we are, by turns desperately wishing to find that new love and terribly afraid to discover that we may have to abandon Hypocrisy when we do.

While this is a significant reason to avoid the non-hypocrite it is the least of the problems that the non-hypocrite causes us. Enoch makes us uncomfortable. The next person, Elijah doesn’t just make us uncomfortable, or remind us of our fear of death; he simply puts us to death.

Like Enoch, Elijah didn’t die but was taken directly to heaven. Unlike Enoch, the life and works of Elijah are described in some detail. In the first chapter of 2nd Kings we find one of the strangest stories in the Bible and this story shows us the power of the non-hypocrite. We will pick up the story at the point where Elijah is being summoned by a company of soldiers who have been sent by King Ahab to fetch him for an audience. Elijah’s response is frightening:

“And the captain of fifty went up to Elijah: and, behold, Elijah sat on the top of a hill. The captain spoke to him, “Man of God, the king hath said, come with me, you are summoned to the Palace.” Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume you and your men.” And, fire came down from heaven, which consumed the captain and his men.”

This happened three times before Elijah finally went to see the King.

Elijah also prayed that it would not rain in Israel for 3 ½ years and there was drought that killed thousands, he called down fire from Heaven upon 450 prophets Baal and killed them, and prayed for what can only be described as a curse upon queen Jezebel so that her servants threw her to her death from a an upstairs window of the palace and her body was eaten in the street by feral dogs.

In Elijah we see that we do not want to meet a non-hypocrite because they have the right to judge us. We look for any flaw, any duplicity, any event in the life of a Godly person that will allow us to claim “See, they are no better than me! They can’t judge me!” We cling to our love and live in our sin because the comfort our hypocrisy seems to provide. We know our hypocrisy will not save us from the judgment of the non-hypocrite but we prefer to not think about it.

I think that many of us, me included are secretly happy there are not more non-hypocrites like Elijah around.

Elijah also frightens us because we see that our first love doesn’t die with us or aid us when we are threatened. This love of ours, to whom we would ever be true, simply moves on to someone else. Indeed, Hypocrisy has always been unfaithful, and never loved us at all. In the end, we are not even mourned by our love; Hypocrisy abandons us cold in the grave with no remorse and moves on.

Lastly, we come to Jesus. In many ways He is the most troublesome non-hypocrite of all. Jesus doesn’t bring our fear of death into stark and utter relief because unlike the other two he did die. But, He rose from the dead which is something done by neither Enoch nor Elijah. Jesus shows us that the non-hypocrite can conquer death and not merely avoid it. Worse, Jesus shows us that His love is stronger than the love provided by Hypocrisy.

Jesus disturbs us because He does not show us how to not be hypocrites. Instead, He was judged for our hypocrisy. In doing this He reveals how untrue Hypocrisy, our love is. Hypocrisy would never die for us but would have us die instead. Hypocrisy never saves us from judgment but brings us to ultimate judgment. The price that Jesus demands for saving us is high; for Jesus demands that we forsake our first love and follow Him. In exchange for giving up the cruel, weak and self-centered hypocrisy; Jesus offers us a love that we can neither deserve nor understand.

Jesus offers us, the singer T-Bone Burrett puts it; the true power of love that is the name of names; Who burns away our pain. The love Jesus can make a coward brave and a hero afraid a strong man weak and make a blind man see. The power of love can make a miser give, a skeptic believe and made this dead man live.

Isn’t it time we ceased looking at the hypocrisy of others and using it as an excuse to continue in our own hypocritical misery? I think so. I hope that after today you will too.

Thank you for letting this middle-aged moralist speak to you today. I’m always willing to talk about these things; so, if you’d like to talk more then simply come by the library.

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Sometimes Chapel Speaker Blogger

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