No Performance Necessary
Several hundred years before the birth of Christ the Greeks were rising to world renowned fame in the way of theater. People from all around would come and watch as a standalone actor would depict life from an everyday point of view, oftentimes relating the people’s ongoing conflict with the government of their day. As popularity grew, theater quickly began to diversify. Soon two actors took the stage, creating dialogue with one another. The actors would portray icons of their day by wearing colorful masks and flamboyant costumes, a spectacle which attracted the masses, leading to the building of the famous amphitheaters. As Rome’s kingdom grew, theater diversified. Roman theater incorporated the use of chariot races, gladiator fights and man versus beast (lion/tiger) matches. However, in spite of Rome’s barbaric theatrical influence, classic Greek theater continued to rise in popularity. Soon as many as three actors took to the stage with oftentimes comical dialogue while revolving through 3-4 costumes and masks during each performance. Accompanying the actors was a full orchestra of their day including exotic dancers. Amphitheaters soon packed out and grew to upwards of 15-20,000 spectators which often included many of Rome’s powerful leaders. In hopes that classic theater be separate from the growing Roman ‘barbaric’ theater, Rome gave classic theater the title, ‘Hupokrinomai’ or ‘the people who play act’.
One day while Jesus was teaching his disciples and the people, He actually brought up classic Greek theater, or hupokrinomai to help get His point across.
Matthew 6:1-4 (New King James Version)
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
Apparently, deep in the heart of Israel you didn’t have to go very far to take in Hupokrinomai. According to Jesus, live theater was happening each week in every synagogue. Interesting enough, it wasn’t the barbaric Romans or humanistic Greeks Jesus was warning the people about but rather their own flesh and blood, the Pharisees – the religious zealots of the day. Jesus referred to them as the real play actors. The ones who wear masks and can put on 3-4 full body costumes a day to make you think they are someone they are not. Unfortunately the crowds loved and applauded the Pharisees’ hupokrinomai. It seemed that the more flamboyant they were, the better. If Pharisees were going to do something right then they made sure everybody knew they were doing something right. Sound familiar with our day? You may be more familiar with the modern day use of the word hupokrinomai. It’s translated, hypocrite.
I think it’s unfortunate that Jesus had to point to the religious zealots of His day to explain what theater looks like. Unfortunately not a lot has changed. You and I both have met a lot of play actors calling themselves Christians and it’s sad. Christianity isn’t a show. It isn’t about having the biggest church, the greatest band and the best orator. It’s not about sticking it to someone, pointing fingers and whose doctrine is more right. Scores are not given from Heaven based on how much one knows or how great their weekly philanthropy is. No, Christianity isn’t some misguided church culture. Christianity is about letting God’s love so permeate who you are that you find yourself loving others all throughout the day. It’s real Love permeating the real you. It’s simple. No masks needed. No hidden agendas. No stage. Few ever see it. Few ever know it. No performance is necessary…and yet there’s nothing more satisfying!
Keep it real.