Discernment and Hypocrisy

Let us read the Scriptures together.

Luke 12:1-2 –

Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.”

Romans 12:9 –

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

James 3:17 –

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

1 Peter 2:1-3 –

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

I think we can all agree that the Bible teaches that hypocrisy is bad. Nevertheless it is possible to speak hypocritically both intentionally and unintentionally. Without making any judgment about intention, let’s take a look at some things I’ve seen said recently of relevance to the Pulpit & Pen that fall firmly into the category of blatant hypocrisy. These complaints are generally applicable to “discernment ministry” in general.

1) I don’t like “discernment ministry” or criticising other Christians; I just do apologetics and preach the Gospel to the lost.

The unstated meaning behind this statement can be understood with the implied addendum: “…and you should be like me, eschewing this ‘discernment ministry’ and focusing on preaching to the lost.”

However, the very fact that the objecting individual singled out “discernment ministry” and criticism of other professing Christians for his statement invokes hypocrisy by the very fact of stating it. Why not say “I don’t do hospitality; I just preach the Gospel”, or “I don’t clean bathrooms; I just preach the Gospel”, or give any number of other denials, or list other things that the individual does not do?

You see, the very moment in which it is discerned that “discernment ministry” is not the best use of one’s time, one has already engaged in discernment. “Discernment ministry” is nothing other than analysis of ministries, ministers, lectures, sermons, books, articles, etc, performed out loud and (these days, anyway) posted on the Internet. When you examine and assess something that purports to be helpful to the soul, you are engaging in discernment. When you post your thoughts about that thing on the public Internet, it becomes an exercise in “discernment ministry”, no less than the “discernment ministry” whose value you are deriding.

In addition, when you post your thoughts about the comparative value of doing this or that thing vs the value of preaching the Gospel to the lost and doing apologetic work, you are engaging in public online discernment ministry, the same as, say, the Pulpit & Pen does. The difference between us is that we admit what we are doing, thanking God that He has gifted His church with the gifts of discernment and of prophecy (as it were), and the objector does the same thing without admitting that is what he is doing.

Finally, this type of statement smacks, without making it explicit, of the ill-founded idea of “special callings” to this or that ministry, which the Pulpit & Pen has already dismissed as an unbiblical idea.

2) Pastors, not “discernment ministries”, are the ones charged with protecting the flock.

This objection, when posted to the public Internet, also becomes its own refutation, and is thus also hypocritical and a case of special pleading.

First, though, it misses the mark pretty entirely. If pastors were fulfilling their responsibilities, we wouldn’t need “discernment ministries”, and so even if, in this hypothetical alternate universe, we blogged about the same subject matter, nobody would read it. It amazes me that the objector fails to see the obvious here. The problem there is that both the pastors and the flock in user-friendly churches symbiotically feed off each other, synergistically creating a much more powerful movement of falsehood than would otherwise be possible. But if we love the people caught up in deception, we will go to them with loving truth and truthful love. We will not be silent while souls are being perverted and while false teaching goes forth into all the world. Even if other pastors are silent, we will not be, because we love both them and the people who listen and enable them. One wonders how loving the objector can be towards such people, when he would prefer we abandon them to their fate without intervention from those who know and love the truth.

The objector’s hypocrisy is displayed in the fact that he is rebuking another professing Christian publicly for rebuking a professing Christian publicly.

Little more be said than what was said above, really; the hypocrisy is readily apparent. The objector is doing the very thing he says ought not to be done.

Further, if pastors are the ones charged with protecting the flock, then they don’t need the help of the objector, do they? They are perfectly capable of protecting the flock from the wicked and dangerous scourge of the discernment ministry to which he objects. Also, the pastor(s) of the Christian(s) engaging in the discernment ministry activities is/are capable of calling the discernment minister to repentance of engaging in discernment ministry, without the help of the objector. So while the objector discerns out loud that we ought not to discern out loud because pastors can discern without our help, he usurps the place and role that he thinks the pastor ought to take in our own lives.

What is more, he assumes that the pastor in his right mind wants to be the only one to help the people in his church discern right from wrong and light from darkness. When a voice is biblical, measured, and truth-loving, why wouldn’t a pastor warmly welcome the help? Why did many pastors join in the voices of love and appreciation for, say, Ken Silva when he passed on to his heavenly reward recently? Even if the objector himself is a pastor, he doesn’t speak for other pastors, does he? Why does he act like pastors want to, or that pastors should want to, go it alone and center all responsibility for research and calling out dangerous trends on himself? Is part of the charism of pastoral leadership the addition of hours in the day? Do pastors get 29 hours per day while the rest of us lowly mortals get 24?

Special pleading is hypocrisy. It has no place among those who bear the name of Jesus. Let us throw off the sin that so easily entangles, let us think biblically and charitably, and let us pursue Jesus, who is the Truth.

[Contributed by Alan Maricle]

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