If our example is so important, then what should we focus on? Look with me at the words Paul used to describe the faith of Timothy’s mother and grandmother:
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5)
Sincere is the first word that Paul used to describe the faith Timothy had seen. The Greek word literally is “non-hypocritical.” The examples that Timothy had seen were non-hypocritical, authentic, and genuine.
But what is hypocrisy? Some would say hypocrisy is not practicing what you preach. That is, while agreeing with the high ethical call of following Christ, we don’t actually practice it. By that definition even the Apostle Paul was a hypocrite. He said he did not do what he wanted to do (see Romans 7). None of us consistently lives up to the high standards that Christ commanded of us. Are we all hypocrites?
True hypocrisy is not falling short of the high commands of Christ. Faith-killing, scorn-inducing hypocrisy is falling short and not repenting of it. It is not caring that we are lukewarm. It is being unwilling to admit we are complacent about following hard after the Lord.
This perceived self-righteousness is exactly what David Kinnaman reported in his book Unchristian. He found the most common negative perception among a skeptical generation was that Christians are hypocrites. They convey a polished image that is not accurate.
The Pharisaical Parent
“Me? A Pharisee?” The thought strikes us as ridiculous. Until we think of the Pharisees’ sins in the context of family.
All of us are tempted to:
- Point out the speck in our children or spouse’s eyes while unaware of the log in our own.
- Act and speak differently in secret when only our children see us.
- Think of ourselves as mature, while assuming it’s our children and spouse who need the Savior.
- Focus on looking good on the outside and ignore fighting sin on the inside.
- Focus only on outward obedience rather than the heart-changing grace that all of us need.
Now, we can understand how our young person might observe faith-killing hypocrisy. To paraphrase Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a Scottish pastor of the nineteenth century
“What my [children] need most is my personal holiness.”
God has given us sinful children to shine a floodlight on ways we need to grow; yet this growth will be short-circuited if we are not willing to repent of specific sins. Too many Christians are happy to admit they are sinners in general—but don’t let anyone suggest they commit actual sins!
None of us is perfect. All of us are growing in grace. But let us work with our children, knowing that we need the grace of Christ. May we pursue a sincere and living faith that others see.
For more reading on this topic, check out The Disciple-Making Parent, page 41-43.