We don’t have to look far to see the hypocrisy of “Do as I say not as I do,” play out in today’s geopolitics and our American culture. We are in the mind-numbing throes of the silly season in which the never-ending barrage of political ads are quick to point out the lies and hypocrisies of the “other party,” and political advisors “scrounge” for any and all opportunities to shade the truth a bit to capture the minds of those who want to validate their pre-conceived opinions.
Thank God we don’t see this hypocrisy in our churches and synagogues! Really…just look around. Protestants and Catholics criticize each other and, in their own way, attempt to keep their clubs “private” by maintaining “status quo.” Ironically, they behave more like the church from which they believed themselves to be so different. Both seem willing to listen to Pope Francis, up to a point that is, and acknowledge the least of our brethren who are left out and disenfranchised. But… let’s not get crazy now… and dare admit them as part of their communities. We have rules, you know. Yet perhaps the most pernicious of all rules are not those committed to paper and by laws but those that reside in our minds and hearts. These consume us from the inside out both on personal and institutional levels.
When you look at the way Jesus criticized some of the Jewish leaders of his day (Matthew 23:1-12), it seems to me that the common thread was one of ego. Matthew pointed out their hypocrisy, as they used their religion to massage their own egos to make themselves feel important. The truth of the matter is that religion has always been incredibly susceptible to being corrupted into just another way for us to feed the unhealthy pride that lurks in the corners of our insecurities. You know, that righteous pride that tempts us to try to make ourselves look more moral or better than others. Let’s face it you were all brainwashed. Just who is the “you?”
When we indulge the temptation to “exalt ourselves” at the expense of others, aren’t we really only reinforcing our own insecurities? If my sense of worth depends on my being better than you, then I will be searching for or manufacturing areas in which I am superior. Inevitably we will have to shade the truth and lie to ourselves and now the malignancy that takes up residence in our hearts and minds, metastasizes and becomes a vicious circle of security, pride, ego.
The solution to that kind of religious egotism that is manifest in the unhealthy need to “exalt ourselves” over others is surprisingly simple. We must just let go of our hurt and not just pay lip service to letting go and stop feeding those insecurities. And the way to let go of the hurt is to embrace the central truth of the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed: God loves and accepts us—unconditionally. There is nothing we can do to earn it. Then who are we to determine who is more lovable or acceptable? When we look at others that way, instead of trying to “exalt ourselves” above others, we can care about them enough to serve them.