Church Life, Outreach, Missions
Duplicity and Integrity in the Body
by Ed Vasicek
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are
destroyed by their duplicity.
Webster defines duplicity as "deception by pretending to feel and act one way while acting another." Duplicity is related to insincerity. Insincerity is a major difficulty in the Christian world, and often occurs when believers sense peer pressure to act and think in a godly way. Such peer pressure can be valuable, but it can also drive our sinful ways and thoughts underground. Social pressure cannot transform our hearts; all it can do is modify our outward behavior (at least when we think we are likely to be caught).
In the Christian world, insincerity works this way: We know we ought to be a certain way. We are not that way. We lie to ourselves and tell ourselves we are the way we ought to be. Then we tell others the lie we told ourselves, thinking we are speaking honestly. Since we have expressed what we think, we do not consider ourselves liars. But liars we arewhether we lie to ourselves first or not.
I believe it is worse to lie to yourself than it is to fib to others. When you lie to others, you are conscious of it. When you are dishonest to yourself, it can become such an ingrained habit that you lose consciousness of it. That is lying in its most sinister, devious form. Such deceit often disguises itself as conviction, the "leading of the Spirit," or even Christian love.
Those who lie to themselves often makes statements such as these: "I'm not angry, just hurt." "No, everything's okay. I'm not upset." "No, it doesn't matter to me." "I'm easy to please." "I can accept things either way." "I'm a good loser." "I'll support the decision either way." "What matters is the good of the organization."
We know we should be good losers. We believe we should be mature enough to back our leaders even when we disagree with them. We think we should not allow little things to bother us, but sometimes they do bother us. Sometimes we are not good losers, but we are too proud to admit it. So, with deceitful words, we hide our true thoughts and feelings.
I would much rather deal with outright lies than with duplicity. You can confront a liar and the books are open. Like a greased pig, an insincere person can escape and justify just about anything. It is like the difference between a standing army and an army of espionage agents. With the standing army, at least you can see what you're fighting.
It seems to me that while lost people lie directly more frequently, Christians have more of a problem with insincerity. If invited to church, a lost person may respond, "I have to work this weekend," when he actually doesn't. On the other hand, a Christian might say, "I didn't feel led by the Spirit to go to church." If the Christian is not being truthful, he is not only deceitful, he is also taking the Lord's name in vain.
The explanation as to why we discover ourselves to be insincere; the reason we sabotage the things that would help us live for the Lord and orchestrate life so that we do not grow spiritually; the reason we do the very things we condemn is because we have a thriving sinful nature.
Paul writes in Romans 7:15-19, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do....As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to dothis I keep on doing."
Maybe we need to take Paul's perspective a little more seriously. In the book, False Assumptions, the authors (Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend) write: "We may know what is right and what our values are, but in our hearts are deep loves and affections for things and people that are contrary to our values. For this reason, the Bible always calls for change from the inside out, and not just making right choices..." (p. 166). Speaking of an individual case, the authors continue, "He had never faced how dark his heart really was. He admitted that a part of him really did not want to serve God at all...." (p. 166).
Here is Vasicek's theory on spiritual growth: "If you will not be honest with yourself about what you really think, how you really feel, and what you want to do, you cannot go anywhere spiritually." We are all made of the same stuff, and some of that stuff is not too good. You can face it or deny it. If you face it, you can become more victorious in your Christian life. If you plaster over it, it will simply infest the walls of your heart.
If you will face the evils of your heart, you can fight them. Resisting temptation is a form of suffering for the Kingdom of God. (Hebrews 2:18, "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted....") Better to face sin as a standing army than as an army of terrorists and saboteurs. Be honest about what you think and how you feel. It will both humble you and help you, with God's help, to prevail. You can then bring yourself to God, warts and all. He already knows all about you anyway. Maybe it's time you started to acknowledge your dark side.
Reprinted from the August 2000 Body Builder, a publication of Highland Park Church.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA