Have you ever wondered what the difference is between being a hypocrite and having a hard heart? Maybe I’m the only one. But I think it is a useful thought to explore. Depravity can come in different degrees (i.e., expressions, depths) even if it is “total.”
I believe these considerations will help us guard our own hearts from sin and more skillfully love those caught in their sin. Too often we just call bad, bad and think we have done our job. If we are going to be effective physicians of the soul, we must know the ailments of the soul particularly.
I would propose that one key difference between being a hypocrite and having a hard heart is the level of self-awareness the individual has about his/her sin.
- A hypocrite is self-aware. He knows that he is not what he claims to be or is not doing what he expects other people to do.
- A hard-hearted person is not self-aware. He is blind to the wrongness of his actions. His heart has lost the sensitivity to discern good from evil, truth from lie in the area of his particular sin.
Which is worse? I would contend that having a hard heart is worse than being a hypocrite. As a hypocrite, I would still be agreeing with God’s law regarding my sin. I still advocate for others to follow God’s law and feel some form of offense when God’s law is broken. Unfortunately, my self-centeredness would only allow me to detect when the violation of God’s law hampers my preferences.
As a hard-hearted person, I would both defend my sin and advocate for the freedom of others to behave (not that sin should be reduce
d simply to behavior) in a similar manner. I have reached the point that I have renamed bad, “good.” I must not only be given eyes to see my own behavior, but I must (before that) have my conscience enlivened to accept God’s truth.
What are some implications from this consideration?
- When we interact with someone who is continuing in a particular sin we should seek to discern if they are under conviction (neither hypocritical nor hard-hearted), self-aware but in denial (being hypocritical), or not acknowledging the truth at all (hard-hearted).
- We then respond to this person on the basis of their self-awareness.
- For the hard-hearted person we can only pray that God will change their heart and avoid as much personal/relational damage as possible (Matt. 7:6).
- For the hypocrite we can appeal to the part of their conscience that is active and seek to help them come under complete conviction.
- For the person under conviction (and really for them only is it wise/effective to) we remind them of God’s grace to forgive and the guidance of His Word to restore them.
- We recognize that a failure to change is not because we have not shared relevant, biblical information in a clear and compassionate way.
As for our own hearts, this reflection should cause us to be very cautious when we refuse the counsel of fellow believers and should urge us to live more transparently with our fellow believers as a protection of starting the hypocritical to hard-hearted slide.