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The Curse and Cure of Hypocrisy

The Archbishop of Canterbury found himself in hot water this week.  He gave a speech to the TUC in which he heavily criticised some companies, including Amazon, for failing to pay enough tax, not offering its employees a living wage and having many people on zero-hours contracts.  We might have sympathy with his views but it wasn’t his views that caused the problem.  The problem was that the Church Commissioners (who invest the Church of England’s money) own a huge number of Amazon shares. Unsurprisingly, cries of hypocrisy came thick and fast.

The problem of hypocrisy (saying one thing but doing another) is one that dogs Christians and Christian institutions. The Bible gives us clear commands to live holy lives and lists many ways in which we should do it, but we fail to live up to what we’re commanded to do. And people see it, and criticise us and the church for it.

But the answer isn’t to stop trying or to water down the commands of scripture.  The answer is to be honest about our failings, to admit our faults and, when we fail to live as we should, to ask for forgiveness from God and those we wrong.  Of course, that isn’t always easy.  Why is that?  It’s pride.  We don’t want to lose face or for others to see our weaknesses, so we stay silent.

But that’s unbecoming of Christians.  We worship a God who knows exactly what we are like and loves us anyway.  So, let’s be humbly, honest and admit our faults.  The charge of hypocrisy only really sticks when we hide the truth. We are sinners saved and kept by grace; loved by God. That’s a message the world needs to hear.