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December 30, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Why do Christians pick and choose to follow parts of the Bible?

The Bible holds a high standard–actually one of perfection. No one meets that standard by definition. But, if I can’t meet the standard, I should just give up or not even try? Well, by that definition no one should try to achieve excellence in terms of life, relationships, and character.

The nature of life is that broken people give advice to broken people. Sometimes that does involve hypocrisy–sometimes it involves. As such, such a broad brush interpretation of hypocrisy isn’t helpful I think ultimately doesn’t get to the core meaning and purpose here.

Clearly, a principle against hypocracy is good. But, I don’t think that prevents people of Godly character, heart, and intent from providing insight from the Word–particularly if done with care, authenticity, and humanity.

I think our cultural notions of hypocracy (or the spin that critics attach to it) are rather rule based rather than principle based. My interpretation of the issue of hypocrisy was told in a story and metaphor form. This helps me view the issue of hypocrisy with a much broader lense–one which understands the complexity of the human experience and excellence. At a minimum, this straw person criticism of the Bible and Christianity is super-simplistic in terms of how it views and interprets what hypocracy (or what it means to be a hypocrit).

The Bible seems to be taking issue with criticism combined with ego, rather than criticism combined with compassion and encouragement. As such, it has to do with where your heart is–and a more holistic understanding of what character means. In terms of the Matthew 7 passage I would say the following–which seems to provide 3 or more lines of reasoning in this regard:

A lot of people use this passage of scripture to try and argue that it is wrong to make a moral judgement about the way that other people live. This is a wrong view of this parable. Other places in the Bible (and even a few verses later in Matthew 7:15-20) we are taught that we need to be able to evaluate and consider what God approves of.

How can people recognise their sin in order to be saved from their sin, if they aren’t told that what it is they do that is sinful. Critical and reflective thinking are important in order to help other people. Jesus is talking about a different type of judging in this parable.

This parable speaks against the type of judgemental attitudes that try to make others look like less than we are by pointing out their flaws without acknowledging our own. It tells us not to be hypocrites and to judge ourselves first, lest we deserve the same criticism we have for others. This is a section of God’s church which ignores this commandment to not be hypocritical. When we judge ourselves, we recognise we are sinful and our approach to others sin is with love and humility because we identify with them. If we deal the “plank in our eye” (the sin in our lives), we are then able to help others with the “speck in their eyes” (their sin) by pointing them to the solution that is needed by both parties.

The simple interpretation: you lied, ergo, you can’t tell others to lie OR you sin, therefore you shouldn’t encourage others to sin. But, it isn’t that simple. The text is often concerned with the state of ones heart or one’s devotion to the principles of the Cross.

I think you can go further and carve out a distinction around the issue of fundamental character and way of life versus singular violation of the Law. One whose posture and lifestyle is toward the model of Jesus can certainly hold the light up to others.

Finally these supposed hypocricies are represent a misunderstanding about the old law. These represent the old law of the New testament.

There are probably philosophers and theologians, and thinkers who may do a clearer job of explaining this–but I think it does a decent job of carving out a critical distinction about what the text is talking about.

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