Did you know that Jesus predicted this week’s events in the 12th chapter of Luke?
He actually prophesied Wikileaks’ dump of thousands of emails from the Democratic campaign AND the exposure of Donald Trump’s “Hot mic” description of how he treats women.
Before you toss me in the same wastebasket where you throw Pat Robertson, read these words for yourself:
What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. What you have whispered to someone behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftops.
(Luke 12:3 New International Revised Version)
So, what do you think? Spot on or what?
Jesus was warning his disciples against hypocrisy. Here is a more extended version in a popular paraphrase of the New Testament:
By this time the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into the thousands. But Jesus’ primary concern was his disciples. He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Hypocrite yeast, Hypocrite phoniness. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town. (Luke 12:3 The Message)
I’ve made one change in this passage, substituting the word “hypocrite” for the word “Pharisee”. That’s partly because some of my best friends – and readers of this blog – are Pharisees. Most of today’s Jews trace their lineage back to the Pharisee branch of Judaism that coexisted in Jesus’ time with Sadducees, Zealots, the people who brought us the Dead Sea Scrolls and other groups. I suspect Jesus would have counted himself among the Pharisees, too. That’s probably why he was so often in conflict with them.
That’s not the only problem with using the word “Pharisee” in our translations of the New Testament. When we use the word “Pharisee”, we Christians think Jesus is talking about someone else. The word “Hypocrite” hits closer to home.
I thought I had completed my series about Finding the Grain Beneath the Paint, but when this week’s events lined up with these words of Jesus: What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. What you have whispered to someone behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftops, I realized that there are darker consequences to being painted than I wrote about earlier.
Taking on the coloring of “parent”, “professional”, or “responsible adult” may have gotten in the way of the full expression of our real selves, but that is latex paint — relatively easy to wash out.
Hypocrisy, on the other hand, is the lead paint that poisons the soul.
What Jesus says to his disciples not only applies to Donald and Hillary, but to you and me as well. My guess is that neither presidential candidate will read this blog, but YOU are reading it. So here are a some takeaways:
The Universe does not love secrets
OK, some readers of this blog don’t believe in God. So, let’s just go with a phenomenon that we see over and over again – stuff we thought was hidden keeps coming out. That goes for the bodies of political enemies buried by South American dictators and the cigarettes that you told your kids you had quit smoking.
Tell me it hasn’t happened to you.
Secrets often come out ironically.
Often the virtues we brag about the most or the sins we most condemn in others are ironically the things that are undermined when the things we say in secret are shouted from the rooftops.
Again, tell me this hasn’t happened to you.
There are psychological reasons why this happens. We often condemn in others those things we most dislike in ourselves – especially when we dislike those things so much that we pretend we aren’t guilty of them.
A famous Christian theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr made a persuasive case that the Bible’s view of human history is essentially ironic. Our pride in American history often blinds us to the racism, greed, injustice and even genocide that is also a part of that history.
If that offends you, let me point to Hillary Clinton’s most obvious personal fault. She is so convinced that she does good things for people that she cannot see how close to the ethical edge she and her husband have always played in their fund-raising relationships. Donald Trump is so convinced of he is a “winner” that he can’t believe his words and behavior make him the biggest loser most of us have ever seen.
Whether we are talking about nations or individuals, it’s the same thing. The self-righteous are often blind to the ways they violate their own values in ironic ways — until the contradictions are shouted from the rooftops.
The way to protect ourselves from exposure is to get honest with ourselves and others
Let’s use another politician as an example.
Harold Hughes was governor and later a Senator from Iowa. He was also a recovering alcoholic. His struggle with alcohol led him, at the age of 30, to climb into a bathtub with a shotgun. Just before he pulled the trigger, he called out to God for help. The result was a major change in his life. Hughes later ran for governor. In a debate, his opponent revealed that 2 years after Hughes’ life-changing experience and joining AA, Hughes relapsed into drinking for a time. That proved, said the opponent, that Hughes was a man without integrity.
Hughes responded by saying, “I am an alcoholic and will be until the day I die… But with God’s help I’ll never touch a drop of alcohol again. Now, can we talk about the issues of this campaign?”
According to the Des Moines Register, “The reaction of the crowd was immediate and nearly unanimous.” Later, the Register editorialized: “In our opinion, any man or woman who wins that battle and successfully puts the pieces of his or her life back together again deserves commendation, not censure.” Hughes won by a landslide.
Getting Honest With Ourselves is a Task for the Second Half of Life
“Imagine,” Bishop Wayne Clymer once said, “that you open the Sunday paper and you see in print and photographs every word you have ever said and everything you have ever done. That’s what the Last Judgment is like.”
You may or may not believe in a literal Last Judgment before the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15), but sooner or later all of us have to review the lives we have lived or develop a spiritual dementia that will be worse than anything we keep buried.
In fact, bringing these things up to the light may be liberating. When describing the 4th of the 12 Steps, the authors of AA’s Big Book used a business metaphor — taking inventory. We need to look at our lives in order to figure out what is still valuable and what is worthless. Who have I helped? What contribution have I made? Who have I hurt? And how?
We don’t have to publish everything we ever said and did in the newspaper or on the Internet. The most important thing is to come to terms with our secrets. We may need to tell someone — a confessor, ordained or not. We may need to make amends. Above all, we will need to be honest. Not being honest with ourselves is where the lead paint really destroys our souls.
My Dad used to write sayings that struck him as important on the white wash of our dairy barn, one of them was:
“When you lie to yourself, you are down to the last person.”
But when you are honest with yourself, you can handle even the exposure of your worst secrets.