You don’t need to hang around social media to hear the oft repeated criticism that the church is filled with hypocrites. Well, in the Orthodox Church, we know we are sinners and we know that we do not live as we should. Yet, if we take Orthodoxy to heart, we do not claim anything more than that we are sinners and our Church is a hospital. Being in the hospital, it is our hope to get well, but we are not there yet.
So, I wondered what it would be like if we did get well; if we could live a life free from hypocrisy. Paul admonishes that “love should be without hypocrisy.” So let’s see what that might look like.
In Romans 12, Paul begins by saying that love calls us to be “living sacrifices.” That sounds about right since He who was love incarnate sacrificed himself for us. Yet, practically speaking, what does this mean?
How do we think about ourselves versus other people? Paul says that we should not be high minded. Everyone is different, especially in terms of what they do in the Church. Grace is given to us all, but how we receive it, and what we do with it varies from person to person. Faith informs how we think so that we do not live with hypocrisy.
How do we serve? Do we serve with faith, or with doubt? St. Paul says that if you minister, do it with diligence. If you teach, teach in proportion to your faith. When you give, give liberally. If you show mercy, do it with cheerfulness. Faith informs our service, if we are to do it without hypocrisy
How do we behave? Paul, admonishes us that we should behave like a Christian. What does that look like?
Abhor evil and cling to what is good.
Be kindly affectionate to each other.
Honor others above your own honor
You shouldn’t be lazy
Your faith should be fervent (passionate), so that you rejoice in hope and have patience in times of trouble
You should be steady in your prayer life.
You should have compassion so that you rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. You strive to meet the needs of others above your own needs so that you feed the hungry and clothe the naked and comfort the broken-hearted. You should be especially mindful of the needs of the members of your own church.
The last part is that we should overcome evil with good.
Live in peace with everyone, as much as you are able.
Avoid vengeance. Never repay evil for evil.
Well, that is a pretty demanding list. Love is certainly more than a feeling, if it is to be lived without hypocrisy. The heart of the matter is love, a love that must be lived to be real. How we think, how we serve, and how we behave is to be guided by faith and love. Then we will be living sacrifices, and there is nothing hypocritical in that.
I guess that until love is perfected in us, we will just have to live with accusation that we are hypocrites. Well, we will work on it.