By Elana B
“I don’t need religion. I don’t need to go to church to be a good person or happy. Besides, I think church-goers are all a bunch of hypocrites.” That’s often what I hear, along with: “Your standards are out of date; no one believes them anymore.” These comments are often the basis for criticism or a direct attack, or they’re the basis for a group’s or individual’s fighting back, railing against the loss of morals and decorum in society. The proverbial “gauntlet” is thrown down daily. Who is right? Who is wrong?
Those who follow Christ, our Savior, strive to live a life patterned after His, but men and women are imperfect. That includes everyone who has lived, is living and will live on the earth, with the exception of the Savior. Perfection exists in our world only in Christ’s example and His teachings. Perfection, in a Biblical context, doesn’t refer to being without flaws or faults. Instead, it refers to being complete in the knowledge of the gospel or what Christ and Heavenly Father have given us—what it takes to obtain perfection or a complete knowledge, understanding and application of Christian or moral principles. Think of perfection as a learning circle, and the gap in our circle tells us what more we need to know and do.
Becoming perfect is a goal for life, one that no one can fully accomplish, but it is this goal and all the steps and requirements we embrace that will bring us closer to understanding what we need to reach it, and what the Godhead offers—peace, joy and happiness that come from living a Christ-centered life.
So, what about hypocrisy? What about individuals or groups, including organized religion that say one thing, but whose words or actions are in opposition to what they espouse? No one likes to be told they’ll receive “X” and then be given “Y.” No one wants to trust a religious leader, a member of that religion or a religious organization that does not respect and fully embody their principles or precepts. Hypocrisy is a part of the human experience. We are all flawed. We can fall short of what we purport to believe. The word of God is an iron rod. If we hold on to it, we can progress in this life and become more “perfect” through knowledge, understanding and words, deeds, thoughts and acts that exemplify what Christ taught. Sometimes, in moments of weakness, anger, despair, embarrassment, or convenience, we let the “ends justify the means,” leave the standards we know and believe, use our agency to rebel or exact vengeance, let go of the iron rod, and we become hypocrites rather than disciples.
Rationalization is a major force in today’s world. If we can explain it away, we can do it and not feel guilty, and we can demand that others see what we do, say or think as our “right,” and not open to discussion. Where once there were societal standards that held sway, there is now a philosophy that defies and redefines them, daring others to challenge the more popular “my life, my way” standard that the world wants us to accept.
We should be careful as we interpret the scriptures. Eternal, God-given standards are neither old-fashioned nor out-of-date. There is no pretense in them. They will endure from the beginning of time until the Millennium, and apply to men and women, no matter when, to provide the means and ends that eternal life requires. Times may have “changed,” but the basic human needs and wants remain constant. Eternity is the key. We were placed on the earth to prove ourselves worthy to live forever in the company of God the Father, Jesus the Christ, the Holy Spirit and others who have remained valiant and true to the faith established by the Savior over two millennia ago.
If we are true to the teachings of Jesus Christ, religious beliefs and standards are not a source for condemnation, they are meant to help us become more perfect, more loving, kind, compassionate, charitable, forgiving, humble, teachable and of service to others. That’s a tall order because we are “human”, too often we fall short and do and say things that are hypocritical. There is one essential difference, the gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect and without hypocrisy. People are not. Imperfection and hypocrisy are obstacles to overcome as we try to live Christ-focused lives; they are momentary slips, not states of being.