I am a huge hypocrite. I will freely admit it because I have come to see that hypocrisy is a plague that hits just about everyone, and I mean everyone.
I have become consciously aware of this as discussion about the care of Syrian refugees has become a hot topic after the ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris, France.
In much of the media, those who lean left are chiding many conservative Christians who are adamant about not taking in any Syrian refugees. There are many left-leaning clergy who are decrying those in government who are saying, "We will not take any Syrian refugees because of threats to safety." Those in the media and those left-leaning clergy are making their appeals based on references to Scripture.
Matthew 25 is referenced.
Exodus 22 and 23 are referenced
Leviticus 19 is referenced
Luke 10 is referenced
Now, I have no issue with citing such verses. There is clear command in scripture to care for the alien and those in need. Those who point to Christians' lack of adherence to these verse rightly point out our hypocrisy.
But, some folks miss their own, and many who are chiding Christians for failing to follow scripture are those who have minimized the authority of scripture in the past.
For instance, more than a few of those who are speaking loudly about helping the immigrant and chiding Christians for failing to follow scripture have used the following arguments regarding gay marriage:
The Bible is an antiquated book that is not relevant when it comes to this issue.
The Bible really doesn't condemn homosexuality, and you can read those verses in such and such a manner. (The exegetical gymnastics done here truly are a work of art.)
So, what prevents some of those "conservative" Christians from using the exact same arguments regarding the reception of Syrian immigrants? What prevents "conservative" Christians from saying:
The Bible is an antiquated book, and those Old Testament passages were written for a nation that had the Jewish God as its ultimate authority. The U.S. has the Constitution and is not a theocracy, so Biblical injunctions for a nation to welcome the alien no longer apply.
And Jesus never specifically referenced Syrian aliens. There is a lot of talk about Edomites and Moabites and Canaanites and Samaritains, but nothing about Syrians.
And Matthew 25 (exegetically speaking) is more about those who are not Christian and how they treat Christians.
And Luke 10 is more about my immediate neighbor in need, not someone who is trying to get into my nation.
What is typically done in many instances is using the Bible to justify one's own particular position instead of allowing the Bible to mold one's own position. If the Bible's injunctions do not fit with my ideology, I can minimize them by the above methods. However, if the Bible's injunctions mesh with my own, then I can use them as a hammer to blast my opponents--which is what most of this boils down too anyway, isn't it.
I will find something that conforms to my ideology and then use it to bash those who don't agree with me, usually making them feel contempt for me in the process.
Admit it, those of you who are on the left hand side of things, when "conservatives" use scriptural law to tell you how wrong you are for supporting homosexual marriage or relationships, you get angry with them because you think they are holding you in contempt and are acting self-righteously.
Admit it, those of you who are the right hand side of things, when "liberals" use scriptural law to tell you how you are not caring for the poor and your neighbor, you get angry with them because you think they are holding you in contempt and are acting self-righteously.
And admit it, both of you that you do, in a very real way, have contempt for the other "side." You think "they" are the ones with the problem, and it is "they" who need to change. If they would only see things in your self-righteous way, then all would be well.
And let me ask you both, how is this loving your neighbor as you would love yourself?
Hypocrisy runs deep, doesn't it? (And if you think I am being hypocritical, read sentence #1 again.)
What is your answer to this problem? Is your answer, "I will work harder to lessen my hypocrisy?"
The more you try, you will either fall into despair because you know you are unable to meet the standard, or you will become self-righteous thinking that you are doing a good job and others should follow suit. You will either hate yourself or end up right back where you were in the first place.
Trying harder isn't the answer.
Trusting more is.
Trusting more in the action of the one who was had the authority to point out our hypocrisy because He had none. Trusting in the one who was without sin when we were full of it. Trusting in the action of One who laid down His life for us when we didn't deserve it. Trusting in the One who deeply loves us in the midst of our continued failure.
Because if you know you are a failure, you don't become self-righteous.
Because if you know you are deeply loved, you don't despair.
You hold the two in tension and become humble.
You admit your hypocrisy.
You admit you are no better than those on the other "side."
You admit you are swayed by your ideology.
You admit that you need correcting.
You are less likely to judge the other as the one who needs changing and realize you need to change too.
You know the hypocrisy will never be fully erased, and you throw yourself upon the mercy of the one who truly forgives.
And when you know that forgiveness, you forgive others--even when they don't deserve it.
The cycle is broken.
Because of the Gospel.