Have you ever thought that you shouldn’t do something because it would be so hard and you would feel like a hypocrite? Let me give some examples:
1) “It’s hard to be her friend, so if I’m friendly toward her it would be hypocritical.”
2) “It’s hard to be expressive in worship, so if I try it would be hypocritical.”
3) “I don’t feel very affectionate toward my spouse right now, so if I encourage them or pursue them it would be hypocritical.”
The list could go on and on. Some Christians might substitute the word “legalistic” for hypocritical–as in, “its hard to read the Bible right now, so doing it would just be legalism.” But is this an accurate description, a legitimate objection?
The simple answer is no, it is not.
Hypocrisy is telling others to do things that you willfully choose not to do. Legalism is trusting in your works to gain a right standing with God, or demanding that others hold to standards that are not in the Scripture.
The reality is that the definition of true service is self-sacrifice for the good of others and the glory of God. This doesn’t mean that we don’t derive spiritual joy from putting our selfishness to death, or that we don’t have an eternal goal that motivates our service. But it is completely unbiblical to think that true service should be effortless and painless. In heaven that will be the case, but our flesh remains active right now though having no ultimate power over us. The only kind of service available to us is the hard kind, giving up some of our self-focus to focus on others and focus on God. Consider the following:
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:17 ESV
This means that in every action (or inaction!) the Christian will experience an internal struggle. When serving the flesh, the Spirit will oppose the course. When serving the Spirit the flesh will oppose the course. Difficulty in serving is the normal experience of a healthy Christian.
But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-45 ESV
We see this same pattern in Jesus–certainly not a hypocrite! for the joy set before him he endured the cross, but on the night before his death he groaned in agony anticipating the cross in the garden. Surely for him true service involved incredible difficulty.
So, the next time we’re tempted to draw back from a hard service because its not “natural”, “easy”, “without struggle”, or we are fearful of hypocrisy, let’s remember our Lord Jesus and the flesh that wages war against our spirit, and set our hearts to take up our cross for the joy set before us.