I’ve spent so much of my time reviewing atheists and skeptics that I’ve forgotten part of my mission is to point out inconsistencies in the doctrine and practice of other Christians. I saw an article in my hometown newspaper, The Blade, that contained an amazing quote by a professed Christian.
Normal hypocrisy is something that we see all the time. Basically, it is a fundamental difference between the way you think and the way you act. In other words, thinking like a Christian but not acting like a Christian. Ted Haggard is a great example. He preached against homosexuality, but resigned from the ministry in disgrace when it was revealed that he had a gay lover.
In Saturday’s edition of The Blade, I saw an example of reverse hypocrisy. This would entail acting like a Christian but not thinking like a Christian. Local woman Alesia Prater was robbed at gunpoint by now-convicted felon Rebecca Olinger. At Olinger’s sentencing, Prater was allowed to speak and said:
She’d have been better off asking me for money rather than pointing a gun at me. As a Christian, I have to forgive her. I don’t like that I do, but I do. (source)
Hmmm. That’s interesting. Prater not only feels obligated to forgive her assailant, but she doesn’t like doing it. And she vocalizes it. She’s doing it out of obligation for the sake of being a Christian.
Well, that’s just wrong.
Allow me to illustrate with a few verses about the heart:
- You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. (Deut 15:10)
- For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. (1 Sam 16:7)
- Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. (Ps 24:3-4)
- Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. (Ps 51:6)
- If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (Ps 66:18)
- A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil. Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy.Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure. (Ps 101:4-5)
- Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Prv 4:23)
- Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight. (Prv 11:20)
- The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways. (Prv 14:14)
- Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished. (Prv 16:5)
- Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart. (Prv 21:2)
- Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart; when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly. (Prv 26:24-26)
- As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man. (Prv 27:19)
- How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Mt 12:34)
- But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. (Mt 15:18-20)
- Matthew 18:21-35
- The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Lk 6:45)
- You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. (Lk 16:15)
- But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Rom 2:29)
- Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:7)
- The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Tim 1:5)
- For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
- Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. (1 Pet 1:22-23)
The key verses are Proverbs 21:2 and Matthew 15:18-20. God weighs not the action itself, but the intention behind the action. It is clear from Prater’s own words that her intention is solely to fulfill what she perceives as a religious obligation; she is not being a “cheerful giver.”
As I’ve argued here, our actions must proceed from the goodness now within us. We should be doing the right thing not out of some perceived religious obligation (as Prater is doing), but because it is the right thing to do.
The gospel is a transformitive message. Submitting to God through faith in Christ entails changing our very nature, and with that comes repentance from sin and the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Perhaps Prater has evidence of this happening elsewhere in her life, but there is no evidence of it in her statement to her assailant. And that constitutes a textbook case of reverse hypocrisy.