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UnChristian 03 HYPOCRITICAL

Perception: Christians say one thing but live something entirely different.

New Perception: Christians are transparent about their flaws and act first, talk second.

At the beginning of each chapter Kinnaman and Lyons state briefly the perception Christians have among outsiders and even within the churchgoing community, then they sight the perception they hope will be fostered if changes come. 85% of young outsiders say that Christians are hypocrites. This is perhaps one of our loudest public space descriptors. The surprising thing to many of us within the church say Kinnaman and Lyons, is “Mosaics and Busters are not bothered by the image as much as you might think. They have learned not to care. In large part this is because they have come to the conclusion that people cannot be counted on, that one should expect to be disappointed.” As one of them has said, “Hypocrisy is a common occurrence in most people’s lives. It happens. Get over it.” Here’s the tragic thing, ” Young oustiders believe that rather than being able to help them sort through the image-is-everything world, followers of Christ are playing the very same mind games that they are. They perceive us as employing the same tactics as everyone else to preserve an appearance of strength.” For Kinnaman and Lyons its time we as a body portray a new image, a new perception.

The reason we’re labeled hypocrites isn’t because outsiders don’t know any of us personally and therefore lob over a ‘caricature grenade’, but rather because they know us, hears us, but don’t see us living what we seem to be so ‘loud’ about. 84% of outsiders say they know a Christian personally, but only 15% of those say they see a difference in those persons lifestyles. Which begs the question for me – are we culturally relevant or have we become culturally accommodated? Kinnaman and Lyons say there’s a twist to this hypocrisy ‘red card’ outsiders pull, its not just that our lives don’t match our faith, but rather that the very way we present what our faith is all about (ie being good) is deeply lacking in us. To flesh this out a bit Kinnaman and Lyons give their readers two statistic charts. The first chart is based on this question: What would you say are the two or three most important priorities for Christians to pursue in terms of their faith? (Notice that at the top was lifestyle, discipleship, evangelism, worship, and relationships);

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The second chart was based on this question: Do you believe these things are morally acceptable? They asked a younger group ranging from 23-41, and an older crowd ranging from 42+.

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The latter chart ended with the f-word on Tv – which I didn’t add – as being the most unanimous agreement and strongest moral stance between the two generations, ironic and sad. According to Kinnaman and Lyons this chart leaves us with only one way to shirk the ‘hypocrisy’ label, lifestyles that demonstrate the fruit of Christ. Along with lifestyles that demonstrate fruit they suggest that transparency is another major way we can diffuse the hypocrisy defeater, and it is as well a wonderful counter-intuitive reaction to an image driven culture. “Transparency disarms an image-is-everything generation.”

Still, even transparent people need to use wisdom in how they display and express their transparency. So what does transparency look like?

“First, there are situations in which caution makes sense – such as times when your confession may cause younger believers to be tempted in their faith.

Second, keep in mind that the basis of transparency is Scripture’s clear teaching that we do not attain perfection in this life.

Third, the motivation of transparency is important.

Fourth, the outcome of our transparency should be restoration.”

Kinnaman and Lyons close their chapter with some challenging questions for their readers to ponder; “…are you burying people – insiders and outsiders – under the weight of a self-righteous life? Do you life a finger to help? As a Christian, it’s my duty to ask: Are you lifting a finger now? Which one?”

A series of pastors, authors, cultural leaders, etc. share brief pieces in this area; they are: Jud Wilhite, Margaret Feinberg, Leroy Barber, Jim White.

Further Thoughts:

I think that what lies beneath the ‘hypocrisy’ in the church is an under estimate of the gospel’s breadth, and a miss-appropriation of its depth. Along with Kinnaman and Lyons suggestions that we need to live our faith, be transparent, and be careful in the way we condemn I want to suggest that we also need to raise afresh the question – ‘what is the gospel’?

Unless we begin to ask ourselves questions in regard to the nature of the Kingdom of God theology in the Gospels, the nature of Jesus’ Messianic and Prophetic actions & sayings, we will reduce the breadth of the gospel to forensic salvation of the individual alone and not a more cosmic, inaugurated eschatology that brings to bear God’s Kingdom in the cultures, social ethos’s and economic trends, and popular idols of our day. We desperately need to connect the Story of Jesus with the drama of Scripture in a more biblically thoughtful and literate manner that pays attention to the OT in the NT and doesn’t fib on the cultural context of the the testaments.

In addition I think the apparent lacking of transparency in the Church today, not to mention the preservation of a strong image tendency, are foisted up on a miss-appropriation of the gospels depth. The ‘good news’ of grace for a totally depraved sinner is ‘good news’ as much today as it was when they first received it. In other words our need for union with Christ initially to receive the forensic declaration of being just in the Father’s sight and receiving the name of ‘son or daughter’ is as needed and as dependent on the gracious interventions of the Father through the Son and Spirit then as it is daily in our lives of sanctification. We are only appropriating the gospel to our struggles with sin when we are portraying that our ‘morality’ is one that is found only in union with Christ. We need to ditch the ‘arrival portrait or goal’ and label, sell, and grand stand the ‘union with Christ portrait or goal’. My goal as a Christian is to be in union with Him, to be found as His friend and follower, not as his perfect replica – though imitation is part of being his friend and follower. The gospel as union with Christ is meant to free us of our need to be ‘with it’ or ‘together’ or ‘good’, its meant to lead us into a life of saying ‘he, he alone is good’ and we will ‘fight for his Kingdom in you and in your surroundings’…