Hypocrites…and ‘Open’ Signs

There is no greater indictment against a follower of Jesus than to be called a hypocrite.

By definition, hypocrisy means that what is on the outside does not match what is on the inside. It literally comes from a Greek word for mask–hypokrites–which means “an actor” or “a stage player.” The word itself is a compound noun, made up of two Greek words that literally translate as “an interpreter from underneath.” That idea makes more sense when you know that the actors in ancient Greek theater wore large masks to mark which character they were playing, and so they interpreted the story from underneath their masks.

In fact, often there would be one actor who played several different parts, distinguished in the drama by which mask he or she wore at that particular time. As the word developed, it took on an extended meaning to refer to any person who was wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something they were not. 

And this is where I want to share with you a pet peeve of mine, an observation that is close to turning into an obsession. It may be an issue of hypocrisy, or, perhaps it’s just simple negligence. Either way, it bugs me because it is an obvious case of false advertising. To borrow a classic line from the classic movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Here’s the deal:  I have noticed, especially later at night, that many businesses that have lighted “OPEN” signs on their storefronts fail to turn them off when they close for the day.  So, though the doors are locked, the rest of the lights are off, and the business is clearly closed, their sign continues to advertise that they are open.

There are a few reasons why this gets on my nerves. For one, the first impression you get from these businesses is either:  a) they don’t mean what they say, b) they aren’t competent enough to know how to turn off their sign, or c) they don’t care enough to make the effort. And personally, I usually am a little slow to do business with a company that doesn’t take the basic details seriously enough to get them right. 

Now, before I get all self-righteous and judgmental, I’m sure it’s probably harder than I think to turn the OPEN sign off, especially after a long day of work when you’re ready to just flick the light switch, arm the alarm, lock up and head to the house.  I can imagine that either there’s an on/off switch on the back of the sign that’s in a real inconvenient place to get to, especially high up on the front window of the store. Or maybe it has to be unplugged, which means you probably have to trace an extension cord into a difficult corner to unplug it. 

Either way, I think it’s worth the effort. If you are going to say that you are OPEN, when you are closed, then I am not sure if I can trust anything else you tell me. It really doesn’t matter what your sign says if I can see right through it–or at least behind it–to see that what is being communicated on the outside does not match what’s going on (or not going on) on the inside.

I hope you get the point. The world’s leading charge against Christians individually and the church collectively, is hypocrisy. They say that we talk a good talk, but we don’t walk the walk. They would suggest that we are good at playing a part, wearing a religious mask, but that it doesn’t represent who we really are. They would say the sign says OPEN, but our lives show that we’re closed.

And unfortunately, sometimes they are right.
And here’s where the rubber hits the road for us as Christ-followers. We need to make sure we walk an authentic walk of discipleship. That does not mean that we have to be perfect; God knew that we weren’t when, “while we were yet sinners,” He sent Christ to die for us. (Romans 5:8) The world can handle our struggles and even our sin when we are honest and transparent about what we’re going through. What they don’t want to see is a mask, a flashing sign of religiosity that doesn’t match our imperfect lives. What they do want–and what the Lord Himself wants–is real

So, let’s make the effort this week to take off our masks, and to get real with God, with ourselves, and with others. If your sign is lit up and saying “OPEN,” make sure your life is saying the same.

One more quick thing:  Thanks for your prayers this past Sunday, and in the week ahead, as we head to Puerto Rico on our mission trip this week. I will be praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you next Sunday.

–Pastor Ken