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In collaboration with another Quaker I have been going through all of the sayings of Jesus, which my Friend has arranged by topic. I was struck by how often Jesus used the word 'hypocrites'. In fact, the word seemed to sum up everything that he opposed.

Jesus never bothered to define the word; instead, he seemed to assume people would understand what it meant from the context of all that he taught and stood for.

Then it struck me that it is much the same thing that happened with us when we started using the word 'sincerity' to represent the essence of all that Jesus was looking for in his followers. It did not appear in that form very often, but it seemed to sum it all up. One (sincerity) is the antithesis of the other (hypocrisy). Hypocrisy is basically, the lack of sincerity. Hypocrisy is what Jesus most opposed, and sincerity is what he most stood for.

We have defined sincerity as the desire to know the truth and to conform with it, even if it proves ourselves to be wrong. And hypocrisy seems to be a desire to be seen as right, no matter how much truth one needs to ignore, cover up, or twist to achieve that objective. See how one is the total opposite of the other?

The original word, hypocrisy, apparently had something to do with a mask being used to hide the truth. Sincerity is an attempt to get away from such masks.

Jesus said things like "When you pray, do not be as the hypocrites are..." (Matthew 6:5) When he said it, he spoke as though hypocrisy was the ultimate evil. He assumed his followers would do anything (including refusing to pray in public--an action calculated to brand them as irreligious) in order to avoid the dreaded title of hypocrite.

In fact, the unpardonable sin, mentioned in Luke 12:10, may actually be another reference to hypocrisy.

The background of the passage (See Mark 3:22-30.) is that some religious leaders had tried to portray Jesus as evil. He responded by saying that an attack on his own character could be understood and overlooked (or forgiven). It happens all the time that we misjudge another person's motives, and Jesus was allowing for that.

But he knew that these particular people -- these hypocrites -- were not just guilty of a simple misunderstanding about his motives. In their heart of hearts they KNEW that he was right. They had received ample evidence of his sincerity, and it was convicting them. So they were consciously fighting against the truth.

John's Gospel has much to say about people hypocritically rejecting the "Light" that Jesus brought to the world. One example appears in John 3:19-20: "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved."

God's Holy Spirit (the Light) had revealed the truth of Jesus' sincerity to the religious leaders, and that same Holy Spirit was pleading with them to acknowledge the truth of what he was saying... as he does with each of us today. But the truth, if they had accepted it, would have required them to change (again, as it does with us). The truth proved them to be wrong. And a hypocrite can never admit his or her own sin. So the masks came out, and the attack on Jesus was the end product of a much more fundamental sin. Their sin was not a simple case of blasphemy against Jesus, but in fact, it was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit -- an attempt to silence the voice speaking from within their own conscience.

Traditionally it has been understood that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit could never be forgiven, even if a person begged and pleaded for forgiveness. That seems like a misunderstanding. The reason it cannot be forgiven is not that God would harden his heart against someone begging for forgiveness. The reason it cannot be forgiven is because a hypocrite could never beg or plead for forgiveness. A true hypocrite is incapable of changing. They blot out the truth with their whole being.

Sadly, this is a picture of the world we live in today. Trying to get people to say they are sorry for anything is nearly impossible. Everywhere we see people heaping bigger and bigger lies on top of the past lies, rather than back down and admit even the slightest error.

The Bible tells us that once a person sees the truth and then turns back on it, it becomes impossible to bring them back to the truth. (Luke 9:62, Hebrews 6:4-6) Obviously, we all resist the truth at times. No one knows exactly where the line is between an understandable reticence about changing, and a totally hopeless spiritual condition. But it is becoming commonplace these days to see people who would die a thousand deaths before they would humble themselves before God and ask for forgiveness. Such people are true examples of 100% sold-out, red-hot hypocrites. It is the fastest growing religion on earth.

Rather than fall on the rock of Christ's teachings (Luke 20:18), they choose to fight him. They have given themselves over to a reprobate mind. Perhaps some of the clearest examples of such hypocrisy are the cult-busters, who pour their whole lives into attacking others, for the express purpose of never having to give account for their own sinfulness.

If you are capable of seriously considering that you might actually be a hypocrite, then chances are that you are not. You can call upon the mercy of God to forgive you for all those areas of your life which have not been previously open to his correction, and he will forgive you.

But Jesus described the world today as a spiritually dead tree by comparison to the relatively 'green' tree that stood by and saw him crucified. And today's world is certainly becoming over-run by insincerity. Hypocrites in politics. Hypocrites in science. And hypocrites in religion. All are determined to make themselves look good at any cost. Their consciences have been seared with a hot iron. (I Timothy 4:2)

It is not that God would not pardon them if they ever came to him humbly confessing their sins. It is just that they never will come -- not in this life nor in the life to come.

Sad words. But it is the sad truth. Don't let it happen to you. If you are still capable of hearing what we are saying, then call out to God for his Spirit of forgiveness, his Spirit of truth, his Spirit of sincerity. And do it today.
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