The word “hypocrisy” comes from the Greek word associated with a stage actor. A hypocrite, therefore, is someone pretending to be someone they are not.
I don’t think Jesus has anything against masks, costumes, pretend play, or Halloween. What Jesus absolutely detests – and according to Matthew 23, he really lets loose on this topic – are spiritual masqueraders, those “got it all together” persons who like to hold court over others. What horrifies him are people in power who make rules and regulations they won’t bother to follow themselves.
More than a dozen times in Matthew’s gospel, seven times in chapter 23 alone, Jesus condemns those of us who like to be seen as someone we are not, who are quick to judge others by standards we do not practice ourselves.
And yet, in his usual upside-down way, Jesus’ strong words of condemnation for hypocrisy show us God’s upside-down grace. God doesn’t judge us according to our slippery masks. God sees us as we are. And loves us into becoming more.
This message is excerpted from “Masks” by Christa von Zychlin in the October 2015 Gather magazine.
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