Life in the Fishbowl: No Swimming in Hypocrisy!

Posted: February 4, 2012 in Faith/Christianity, Life As We Know It!, Social Justice/missions
Tags: , ,

For years I’ve heard the term ‘fishbowl’ as a description of how it feels to live life as a Christian.  We’re the fish, the bowl is our worldview and ‘playground’, and the world is the audience watching from outside the glass to see how we react (tapping on the glass from time-to-time!).  There’s certainly something pretty vulnerable about living in a glass bowl: it’s transparent, not much room for error, and an easy target for those wanting to drop some stones into.  Simply put…you can’t really hide anything living in a bowl…unless you try to live under it!

In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus had this to say about ‘Bowl Living’; “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden, neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Jesus didn’t seem to leave an option for us to live under the bowl in hiding, nor to live in obscurity, but to live brightly in the bowl…giving permission for the world to watch, and providing light and illumination for us, and to those we live among.  This kind of living encompasses both actions, and attitudes…words and deeds…not in competition, but in harmony.  Mother Teresa was a bright example of the power of living a life doing well for others.  In the process of those watching her work, she earned the respect of millions world-wide as a result of her lifelong sacrificial work in the impoverished streets of  Calcutta, India.  She didn’t do this for self-promotion, but simply the call to live as Christ…doing the things Jesus did, and expected His followers to also be passionate about.  What kind of light are you shinning to others?

When Christians ‘do good’ for others there’s a level of respect and positive reputation established as a person who genuinely loves God, and as a result of that, genuinely loves & serves others.  This kind of reputation can open doors that were previously locked, and allows for an opportunity to share Christ in a powerful way.  Scripture states repeatedly that this kind of living; serving, loving, engaging in social justice, would be visible attributes and characteristics of Jesus’ true followers.  But unfortunately there’s a flip-side to the fish bowl analogy.  As much as the fish bowl allows others to see our ‘good works’, it also exposes those who live in opposite lifestyle to Christ’s teaching and commands.  Hypocrisy has been a dagger in the side of Christianity for centuries…the Roman occupations, the Crusades, Nazism…and many other examples we can all cringe at.  Nothing snuffs out the brightness, excitement, relevancy and joy of a message, like the damaging results of hypocrisy…living in contrast and exact opposite of what you say is true and right.

In David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons 2007 book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…and Why it Matters, they documented the damaging effects Christian hypocrisy, whether perceived or real, has had on the 16-29 year-old ‘non-believing’ group that was the target audience of the survey.  The sad reality in UnChristian was that the interviews revealed hypocrisy as one of the most commonly associated distinctives with Christians/Christianity…a truly ‘UnChristian’ distinctive of how we as Christians ought to be perceived.  This is a sobering, yet cold reality and challenge that demonstrates the necessity in understanding that how we live our lives in front of the world (the fish bowl) really does matter.  Sharing our faith isn’t just about using clever and relevant words, but also about actions, character and attitude.  Yes I’m an advocate of St. Francis of Assisi’s “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words” mantra, but I also believe there is a time when words are necessary to give reason and account for why we serve and love (and for Whom).

So just as the fish bowl of Christianity offers a ‘through-the-glass’ look at the way some Christians have allowed Christ’s light to shine in/through them (Teresa, Brett & Alex Harris, ), there have also been more than a few hypocrites exposed along the way.  Where there is light, darkness always lurks…but true light ALWAYS exposes darkness!  We all run the risk of being a hypocrite at times, but that’s no reason to accept that as an acceptable excuse…‘just the way things are.’  The Christian life is often lived like one moment everyone is watching (what we want them to see), and the next moment as if no one (including God) is watching (who we really are).  Trust me, at times the Christian life may seem cumbersome and not much fun, but the risks of living in contrast to what we say we believe to be real and true, is just not worth the risks…and believe me…there are risks!

I’ve been called a lot of names throughout my life…some good, others not-so, but one word I detested being called was a hypocrite.  There’s something about that word, someone identifying you as a phony and un-trustworthy, that cuts deep and calls your character into question.  Even when I wasn’t serving the Lord, I still hated being called-out by someone who accused me of being a hypocrite (usually justifiably!).  But when you hang the Christian tag around your neck, you better believe that folks will be watching to see if the walk backs up the talk.  So if we’re going to live in a fishbowl, let’s make sure we’re swimming in clean waters, and not in our own polluted hypocrisy.  Because in the end it’s not only a black mark on ourselves, but on Christianity as well.

Maybe you’ve been a perpetrator of such hypocrisy, or you’re cynical and put off with what you’ve seen from outside the fishbowl.  Taking that into account, if you consider yourself a true Christ-follower, what are some ways you can help put an end to hypocrisy…one action at a time?  Or better yet, are you willing to ask the Lord to expose areas of hypocrisy in your own life…then seek to live in the standards Christ set in scripture?  A little self-confession here…I’ve done this, and continue to ask the Lord those questions routinely in my own life.  And guess what?  He always answers…sometimes not with the responses I was hoping for…but He keeps my hypocrisy meter in check as I measure myself against His truth and character revealed in the bible.

So don’t be afraid of the fishbowl…it’s a great swim when you know you’ve got nothing to hide.  And when those watching you swim are exposed to pure light instead of hypocrisy nuggets, they just might wanna dive in there with ya!

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