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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

“I Have Cussing on Number 18”

What is hypocrisy? It is trying to fool people into thinking you are acting in one way, when in reality you are acting in another.

I'm going to courageously offer you an example from my sandlot days. When I was sixteen, I was fighting for the starting quarterback slot on the mighty Winnsboro Red Raider football team. I say I was fighting for it—officially I had lost the position before the start of the season and was thus sitting on the bench. I was number 18 in the program, but I wanted to be number one in the coaches’ hearts.

We had lost our first game and were losing 18-0 to the dreaded Hughes Springs Mustangs late in our second game when our coach sent me in during the fourth quarter. As luck would have it, we immediately began a long drive down field until we were deep into enemy territory.

It had been raining quite a bit so the field was completely muddy. Because of this, I fumbled a hand off to our halfback. As soon as the ball hit the ground, I dove for it. In spite of the fact that I stretched my body as far as it could go, the ball lay just out of the reach of my fingertips and someone from the other team recovered the ball.

I was devastated. The way we were moving the ball, I had thought that if we scored, I would have won the starting position at quarterback. But lying there on the ground, all I could think of was that I had the quarterback position within my fingertips and then blew it.

Upon that realization, I became very angry. I then did something that I had never done before during a football game—at least out loud—I cussed. Lying there on the ground, face down, I raised my right hand and brought it crashing to the ground shouting "Bleep!"

All was fine and dandy until I happened to look about two feet in front of my face. There, directly ahead of me, was a pair of shoes and socks that looked kind of different. Looking a little higher I noticed that the pants were not football pants. I then saw a yellow object made of cloth come floating to the ground. The human being standing in front of me was the referee.

It was at that point that I heard him say the awful words to another official that I wish I could forget, "I have a personal foul on #18 (that was me!) for cussing."

I don't know about you, but whenever I do something stupid, I begin to think irrationally. For instance, sometimes I see newspaper headlines in my mind. In this moment, I could see a variety of headlines in our local newspaper: "Youth Group Member Penalized for Cussing", "Everyone in the World Made Aware of Young Church Member's Cussing—What other Cuss Words has He Said?", and "Young Footballer Disowned By Disgraced Family!" In light of my tragic future, I did the one thing I knew to do—I panicked.

The only thing I could think of was that if I ran and hid behind the bench and pretended like nothing had happened, maybe no one would ever find out. So I ran to the bench, calmly drank some water, sat down by some of my teammates.

My plan was working great! But then my coach did the unthinkable; he stopped the game and went out on the field to find out why we received our penalty! At that moment my plan was shattered because everybody in the stadium wanted to know why our coach was on the field.

Finally our coach came off the field, and in one of those rare moments when there was a lull in the stadium noise, my coach yelled out with the voice of a cannon, "Where's Mark Edge?" Now I was convinced that everyone was going to know. I was surely going to have to go forward in church on Sunday morning. My humiliation was total.

My coach gave one of those speeches on how he was disappointed in me for doing something like I did. Everything was a total disaster.

As it worked out, although I didn't know it at the time, I won the quarterback position that night anyway. My cussing was all for naught. And, I'm thankful to say I was not banished from my hometown forever.

Yet, what we have here is a miniature illustration of a hypocritical life. You see, I was guilty of cussing and was penalized for it. I did not want anyone to know this. For this reason I went and hid out with the substitutes. I wanted to blend in with them. However stupid my idea was, I wanted people to think that I was one of them, away from the field of play. If people believed that I was one of the benchwarmers, then they would not have known that I was guilty of cussing.

To put it bluntly, I had acted in one way and had attempted to deceive people into thinking that I had acted in another. That's hypocrisy.

Now, here’s the point I really want to drive home. Feelings do not determine hypocrisy. If our aim is honoring God, and we choose to do so in a sacrificial way, and we do not feel good emotions while we are doing the virtuous thing, our feelings do not condemn us to hypocrisy. As a matter of fact, we could offer an even more sacrificial gift to God, since we are acting in spite of our feelings.

The question is, what is our motive, not what are our feelings?

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