the happy hypocrite
The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest
The Happy Hypocrite
Sir Henry Maximilian "Max" Beerbohm published a story many years ago titled THE HAPPY HYPOCRITE. It is a story about a man who was born with an awful facial deformity. He grew up alone and lonely. When reaching adulthood, he decided to move from his town to begin a new life. On his way he discovered a beautiful mask that fit him, making him look handsome. At first the mask was uncomfortable, and he was afraid that people would find out who he really was, but he continued to wear the mask every day.
In his new hometown, he made many friends and fell in love. But one day a wicked woman from his old home came to his town and discovered this man’s true identity. In front of his friends and fiancé, she forced him to remove his mask. When he removed the mask, it revealed a handsome face. His face had conformed to the mask.
Becoming like Christ is similar to this. Go ahead and put on Christ. At first it may feel unnatural or uncomfortable, and maybe you may think, “who am I trying to fool?” But everyday just keep putting on Christ and every day you will grow to look more like him.
The word “hypocrite” is kin to the word “mask” or the concept from theater of an “actor.” Jesus and the Apostle Paul had harsh words for phonies who claimed to be one thing, but secretly were another. The greatest problem they had with hypocrites was people who claimed to be more spiritual or righteous than others, made rules for others to live up to and then turned around and broke the rules and standards they held over the heads of others.
Many people don’t go to church because they claim there are too many hypocrites there. It makes me curious as to how many are too many? Perhaps they might say that even one was too many. Perhaps they have a point. But then, do they know that there are hypocrites at the grocery store. There are hypocrites at their work place. There are hypocrites at our favorite restaurants. Perhaps, if we are trying to avoid hypocrites we should stay home, unless of course, there are hypocrites there too. Why should their existence keep us from worshiping Christ with those in the church who are genuine followers.
Jesus’ greatest problem with hypocrites had to do with people who were in religious leadership. Paul had a serious bone to pick with the ones who held positions of leadership in the churches he started and to whom he wrote his letters. When Paul wrote his first letter to the church in Thessalonica he reminded them about his earnest example of leadership. He explained to them how he had previously suffered for the gospel in Philippi and had been attacked for his message even in their town. He declared to them that he had told them only the truth with no lies, pure motives and no tricks. He had shared with them the gospel that God had entrusted to him. Paul and his team had been gentle and had not acted like egomaniacal authoritarians. In verse five of chapter 2 he writes, “You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.”
When spiritual leaders have chosen Christ as their only masks, God can use them to change lives as he changes them into the image of Christ. Great godly leaders can poor themselves and Jesus into the lives of the people they are watching out for and empower them to do the same for others. Leadership, in the Lord’s church is contagious. Great leaders empower the next generation of great leaders.
I think this could be the reason why James wrote that not many should desire to be teachers. One slip can lead to the fall of a student. It is a massive burden. Those of us who carry the mantle of leadership must always examine ourselves. When criticized, we should take the criticism seriously enough to pray about it and see if it might even be minutely true. If so we must repent and confess our weakness. Humility was at the heart of Jesus’ and Paul’s leadership. Some people think that a leader must be proud and in charge. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leaders must be solid examples of those who wear the mask of Christ so that, when removed, they bear only his image. That is the image they must always convey so that Christ’s power may reign in every life and in the whole church.
This Sunday we will continue our series of messages based on Acts 17 and 1 & 2 Thessalonians titled SHAKE THE WORLD. The message this week is, The Life Shaking Impact of Godly Examples, based on 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 & Acts 7:1-9. I hope you will join us and join the movement of WORLD SHAKERS!
Shaking with you,