Actors and Hypocists

Matthew 15:7-9 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips,but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me,teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

hupokrités: one who answers, an actor, a hypocrite

5273 hypokritḗs (a masculine noun derived from 5259 /hypó, “under” and 2919/krínō, “judge”) – properly, a judging under, like a performer acting under a mask(i.e. a theater-actor); (figuratively) a two-faced person; a “hypocrite,” whose profession does not match their practice – i.e. someone who “says one thing but does another.”

5273 (hypokritḗs) was commonly used of actors on the Greek stage. When applied in the NT, it refers to a hypocrite.

“Christianity requires that believers should be open and above-board. They should be themselves. Their lives should be like an open book, easily read” (K. Wuest,Word Studies, Vol 2, Pastoral Epistles, 1 Peter, 50,51).

The word we use for “Actor” comes from the Greek word hypokritḗs or hypocrite as used in the above scripture from Matthew 15:7.  Of course “actor” is so much softer than saying hypocrite because hypocrite sounds so negative.  Actor on the other hand doesn’t sound harsh at all,  the word actually helps to separate deed and motive.  Yet the hypocrite does exactly that as Jesus says,  “‘This people honors me with their lips,but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me,teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”  But Actors entertain us and make us happy and bring us joy so what they do is not wrong right? And so it is as we act in front of God but we don’t it in hopes it makes him happy and he throws roses to the stage.  If the performance was bad we just get up the next day and head back to the stage to do it again.  There are times when an actor gets so caught up in character that he doesn’t know how to come out of it.  It’s like an undercover cop who has gone in so deep that he forgets that he is a cop first and for most.  It takes someone other of us to shake us out of it.  But what happens when everyone else is lost in character too?

It is a scary thing to look back at a time when I thought I was a Christian. I was doing Christian things and speaking the language; the native tongue of Christian rhetoric. It wasn’t Jesus and his gospel, it was Jesus and something else. My religion was Jesus and some extra thing I had to do. What’s scary is that it seemed right. It seemed as if I was doing the right thing. My community and church activities seemed like the thing that was needed and lacking. I didn’t want to be a bench warmer and so to feel real I acted real. I performed well and played the part of a Christian. I was convinced and had deep convictions that this was going to assure my salvation. I approached life outside of church the same way; we all do. When you mess up, you get up and try again but harder this time. People expect you to do it that way. In church we shrink heaven to a carrot and in the world we shrink whatever earthly treasure we want into a carrot also. We hang that carrot in front of ourselves and everyone can see our carrots and they use them to help themselves in reaching their own carrots.

I played the part well, I had achieved big dog status as I paraded around church like a peacock. I was smashing records as far as I was concerned. The whole time I thought I was right and I knew I was right. But it was because I was acting using my script and not the director’s screenplay. I can’t say that I unknowingly rewrote the law and lowered God‘s standards in order to make them realistic in my own eyes. But I had done what Jesus said could not and would not happen to the law. Jesus said that he himself would not destroy the law but I did. So did I think that I was greater than God? I lived like it, as I gave an Oscar worthy performance.  I guess God was right, Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man,but its end is the way to death.

Matthew 5:18-19 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

I had made myself the least in the kingdom of heaven.  I was found to only to be playing a game of make believe. In my world everyone was proud of me.  In my world my relaxing of the law was no big deal. I had actually lessened my need for Jesus without thinking through what that meant.  I had built an environment within my feeble control so that I would never put myself in positions that I could not overcome as a victorious christian. I had turned my back against the truth of God’s word and made my own word; my truth was the worst lie.  An actor must have a stage or he can’t act.  An actor must have an audience and the audience must respond on cue.  When the actor signals for applause or tears and even shock the audience must respond or how would the actor know if he is good?  The recruited audience is my mirror and my measure stick of how much better I am.   My life may have even led others astray or caused others to stumble because they never knew the praises I received were fabricated lies. I seemed perfect because I wrote the script that way.  Everything ending the way i wanted, no unhappy endings.  I flipped the script and called it Christianity.

H2O is water and if you remove an atom it’s no longer water. If it’s no longer water, you can’t sell it as water, you can’t use it as water and you couldn’t with any reasonable understanding call it water. But I changed the law given by God and acted as if this same God was on-board with the edits I made. I was able to do it but you are telling me that Jesus Christ, Son of the living God couldn’t? That can’t be! So who was I serving? Who was I praying to? Who was my master? Who was my God? Was it the same God who wrote the Ten Commandments?  It was my little god who preached a different gospel; it was me but I was too afraid to call myself god.

Galatians 1:6-8 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Paul says that even if an angel from heaven brings us a different gospel he is cursed. So where does that put me? My problem was that I had faith in faith but my faith rested on my work in progress and unfinished works but not Jesus’ works. So since it was based on my works and I was a good person not a sinner, I had to work harder but I didn’t see it as working harder. My eyes were fixed on me not the cross. I imitated me on my best days and Jesus was brought alone to validate me. Sometimes we shout “I’m a Christian” in the hopes of getting the same results of shouting “I’m licensed to carry”. Respect without fruit but we use Jesus not to gain respect but fear in order to control the audience.  I spent my entire life walking while looking at myself in the mirror. So my direction varied a lot. I was easily deterred because my foundation was built on what would help me get the carrot quicker. I just walked around always checking myself not in a self-examination way but in a self-justifying way. Always trying to look the part and always in character. It was so tiring trying to pretend that I was a Christian because being in need of help is demeaning. After awhile fantasy and reality bleeds into each other setting up a situation that only Jesus can pull you out of. I have never heard of a drowning man who is deep below the surface that he was able to save himself. But with every lie, every performance, every leading role I drifted and swam further from shore to be a self made man.

All that the follower of Jesus has to do is to make sure that his obedience, following and love are entirely spontaneous and unpremeditated. If you do good, you must not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, you must be quite unconscious of it. Otherwise you are simply displaying your own virtue, and not that which has its source in Jesus Christ. Christ’s virtue, the virtue of discipleship, can only be accomplished so long as you are entirely unconscious of what you are doing. The genuine work of love is always a hidden work. Take heed therefore that you know it not, for only so is it the goodness of God. If we want to know our own goodness or love, it has already ceased to be love. We must be unaware even of our lover for our enemies. After all, when we love them they are no longer our enemies.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Cost of Discipleship

Accepting what God has said and written about you, kills you. Accepting what God has to say about you takes your life because it renders you lifeless and undone. I was reading the wrong script and was happy running my life that way. Yet I always wondered why things were off. I would say this line and other actors would always get it wrong and frustrate me. But it wasn’t that they missed the director’s mark, I was going by the wrong vision.  Is it on 1, 2, 3, then I come out of the tomb or is it 1, 2, and then I make my entrance? Jesus is outside calling to all of us named Lazarus but we will never walk in newness listening to our hearts and not the one who convicts hearts.  And as long as we think Jesus is the supporting casts we will be forever lost.  God is pulling back the curtain on the wizard of Oz, the wizard must face the fact that he is just a sinful man with tons of imperfections.  He must know that he can’t escape the land of Oz without help.  He must know that he can’t defeat the witch without someone actually doing it for him.  He must admit that the curtain is to hide his cowardliness, just like the fig leaf was an attempt to cover up Adam.  The gospel of Jesus Christ removes the covering on everyone equally because no one has gotten it together.  Grace says that the show is over; love is here so embrace it and be truly free from yourself.

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