The Difference Between Immaturity and Hypocrisy

February 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

man with dummyRecently a famous celebrity model and actress was in an interview stating that she’s going to church with her husband and baby. She also stated that she speaks in tongues and sees miraculous healings in her church services.

When I read this, my first reaction was “great!  God is obviously working on her!” and to take a moment to pray for her to have complete truth revealed to her.

What caught my attention on Facebook yesterday was how many of my friends apparently didn’t have that reaction when they found this out.  Many in my network shared an article from a radio host who was pointing out how he saw her on a magazine cover of which he had to turn away his eyes, and then a few weeks later had read this article.  The knee-jerk reaction was “look at the hypocrisy–calling oneself a Christian while living completely like the world“.

Why is it we’re so quick to throw stones instead of praying for the lost, or the severely mislead and confused?  I mean, I’ve done incredibly stupid things in my immaturity, but grew in my relationship with God. If you were to look at the narrative of my life in 1998 and then stopped the story there, you’d be really ticked off with all my insecurities and outright sinning I was still doing after coming to the Lord.  I’m glad the story doesn’t stop there!

I’ve often reminded people that we’ve got the book of the Acts of the Apostles.  If we didn’t, we’d have been left with the idea that Peter was a complete hypocrite, coward and jerk just like Judas.  One man betrayed Jesus and killed himself, the other betrayed Jesus and repented and became a huge player in the foundation of the early church.  What if God listened to Ananias when he told him to go lay hands on Saul of Tarsus so he could see again and said “yeah, you’re right–I shouldn’t bother with him, he’s proven to be a loose canon“?  Saul, later named Paul was public enemy number one of the new Christian movement, but yet God wanted to use him mightily.  Aren’t you glad the story didn’t end there but Ananias obeyed and prayed for him?

Sometimes early on in someone’s story we can’t see the whole picture just yet.  In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the bad seed is sown right after the good seed, and both grow together and look very similar until close to harvest time when the wicked are separated from the righteous.  Sometimes, well-intentioned but misinformed believers think it’s their job to do the separating prematurely.

Can I submit to you for consideration that sometimes we’re confusing people’s rebellion with their immaturity? Could it be possible that some of the people we’ve quickly thrown stones at and pointed fingers at were merely immature and not rebels?  People that needed discipling and a diaper change, but were not people who intentionally enjoyed pooping on the carpet?

When we look at the previously mentioned murderer Paul’s letter to the Corinthian believers, he had to correct many sinfully immature things they were doing.  And you know something crazy?  They were operating in spiritual gifts, including speaking in tongues.  The “hypocrisy” in their lives doesn’t seem to have been evidence in Paul’s mind that they were fake Christians, but that they needed his guidance and to cultivate personal holiness. They needed to grow up, as Paul said he was teaching them milk and not giving them meat.

I’m not trying to misquote the verse that says love covers a multitude of sins or advocate that we wink at outright sin.  But, I am saying that sometimes in situations that are ambiguous and nobody is committing sin, but might have attitude or character flaws, we pull them aside and love on them and help them grow.  On the other hand, if it’s individuals committing felony and trying to hide it, or are committing outright sin, we are obligated to deal with it and bring it to light.

I am just merely questioning how eager some of us are to bring things to the light that don’t meet this criteria.  Sometimes like human babies, spiritual infants are messy and don’t do everything correctly–and will continue to do so without proper mentoring and discipleship.  We need to show patience and give them time.  How much time will be as obvious as if we were to see a 40 year old man wearing a diaper and know that they needed to grow up.

A blogger I follow regularly suggested the other day that many atheists were Christians who asked questions and were shut up by people who didn’t like that they thought for themselves.  I don’t know if I stand by that 100% but I do agree–many atheists and agnostics are hurt Christians. Maybe someone confused them early on for being a tare when they were wheat and got separated from the pack before harvest time.

I’m convinced a lot of the problems in the modern church we see today are not holiness, repentance or hypocrisy problems, but a lack of proper mentoring and discipleship.

What are your thoughts?

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Steve Bremner

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Steve Bremner is a Canadian missionary to Peru, who is called to raise up disciples who flow in the power of the Holy Spirit within a missional community named Oikos. He is passionate about blogging and podcasting, and is general editor of Fire Press, and also produces & co-hosts its podcast called Fire On Your Head. If you like Steve's blog, you'll also like his Kindle books.