Saturday, January 10, 2009


Hypocrite. It might just be the only insult worthy of a second thought in our pluralistic culture. No one wants to be thought of as a hypocrite. And most Christians would be satisfied if the word had died with the Pharisees. But it hasn't. It's still alive and well and messing with people's minds today. In my last post I shared the not-so-fictional fictional account of a man who was divorcing his wife for another woman because they no longer had any real husband/ wife relationship anyway. The question that comes to mind in situations like this (and it has been brought up before in reality) is "If we stay married even though we don't feel like it, aren't we being hypocrites?"

Now, there is a whole type of counseling theory that says no to that question. Nouthetic counseling in general, and Jay Adams specifically, would say that doing something in spite of feelings is never hypocrisy. Let me illustrate: "It is never hypocritical to obey God. You have fallen into a trap of the devil in thinking that it is." (The Christian Counselor's Manual, pg. 120). Adams would say that a couple should stay married whether they feel like it or not, simply because it is right to obey God. I agree with that, but I don't think it goes far enough. While I respect the strides that Adams is responsible for making in getting counseling back into the church where it belongs, I have to disagree with this quote. Strongly. I lay out an alternative notion in my chapter on love in the Pursuit of Pleasure in the Pleasure of Another.

I think the fear of being called a hypocrite causes us to do some serious twisting to avoid it. But I don't think it's necessary. If I want to divorce my wife because I don't love her anymore, and I want to play the field, being called a hypocrite should be the last thing I'm worried about. Why are we so afraid of earning the label, "Hypocrite"? Some of the most obedient people in Scripture were called hypocrites by Jesus. I don't understand how Adams gets around this in the above quote. I don't just think the Pharisees were called hypocrites because they only perfectly obeyed some of the laws, and not the important ones. I think they were called hypocrites because in their hearts, the desire wasn't to glorify God as much as to please themselves and make much of themselves. External righteousness has its earthly benefits.

So, what is a married couple to do when the love is gone, the feelings have faded, and they're just sharing a house? Repent. Don't get divorced. Don't worry about being a hypocrite. Yes - you are one. But the answer isn't further disobedience. The answer is repentance. Repent for being such lousy lovers. Repent of being such lousy God glorifiers. Don't just repent for actions. Repent for your feelings. It's not enough to act right. God also commands that you feel right. So don't stop with staying married. Repent of your hard-heartedness and your half-heartedness. And follow the example of Jesus.

Did Jesus ever do something, even when he didn't feel like it? I would argue he did not. He always did what he felt like doing, and never violated his feelings. The most glaring time in the life of our Lord when his feelings and actions may have conflicted was the night before his crucifixion. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he clearly did not want to go to the cross. Would it have been hypocrisy for Jesus to go to the cross without wanting to, without feeling rightly about it? Yes, I think it would have been. So what did Jesus do to keep from being a hypocrite? He prayed. He sweat blood. He had angels strengthening him. Why? So his feelings would line up with God's will. He didn't just go to the cross half-heartedly, or with the wrong motives, or with the wrong goal. He went rightly.

So don't be afraid of being called a hypocrite. And don't be afraid of being one. You're far worse than that already. And Christ has taken it upon himself if you're his. Just live a life of ongoing repentance, for outward actions done and undone, and heart issues felt and not felt.

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