What Should We Do About Hypocrisy?
Criticizing the Church and Christians is fast becoming a national pastime here in the U.S., some of which is deserved, a lot of which isn’t. Continue reading . . .
Criticizing the Church and Christians is fast becoming a national pastime here in the U.S., some of which is deserved, a lot of which isn’t. One hears things like: “You guys are all in it for the money!” Or, “You’re a bunch of anti-women, anti-gay, judgmental, close-minded Republicans.” Or perhaps you’ve heard something like: “You Christians are just another religious club that exists solely for the sake of its own members. Where are you when people are hurting and the world is in crisis?”
I have to say, however, that among all the many criticisms one hears about Christianity and the Church, none is heard so often as the charge of hypocrisy. There are a lot of reasons why non-Christians justify maintaining their distance from the church, but first and foremost is the accusation that Christians are a bunch of people who don’t possess what they profess. They are flashy on the outside but hollow on the inside. They make great claims but back it up with very little conduct. They profess to be full but are in fact empty. They put on a façade of righteousness all the while living in sin. It is the distinct absence of authenticity, so the critics say, that most plagues the church.
You’ve probably heard the somewhat smarty-pants response whenever someone says they’ll never attend a church because of the presence of hypocrites: “Hey, that’s no problem, we’re always happy to make room for one more.”
That’s probably not the most helpful way to deal with the problem. May I suggest another approach?
First, tell people that a confession of hypocrisy is actually a requirement for involvement in the local church. No one, not even the most mature of Christians, is ever entirely free of hypocrisy. Before you can ever be a part of the body of Christ you have to acknowledge up front that you are a sinner in need of salvation, and one of the common elements in all sinners is hypocrisy. So, my advice is this: If you are not a hypocrite, please don’t come to Bridgeway. We have nothing to offer people who are perfectly genuine.
Second, yes, we acknowledge the presence of hypocrisy in the church, but understand that it is never condoned. Hypocrisy is simply one of many sins, along with lust and envy and pride and greed and dishonesty that we believe the grace of God and the power of the Spirit can both forgive and overcome.
Third, it’s important to remember that God is far more upset about hypocrisy in the church than we are. If there is hypocrisy in the church, and there is, it wasn’t God’s idea. It was ours. And trust, me, he will not let us get away with it for very long.
Fourth, every religion, philosophy, in every arena of life, has its hypocrites. There are Hindu hypocrites, Buddhist hypocrites, even atheistic hypocrites. No people group or club or gathering or political party or religious sect is devoid of people who fail to live up consistently to what they profess to believe as true.
Fifth, perhaps the best response to this charge is to remind people who are concerned about hypocrisy that we are not inviting them to Christians. We are inviting them to Christ! We as Christians are far from perfect. Only Christ is, and it is he whom we offer in the gospel. He is the only one whose life we hold up as exemplary and worthy of being imitated.
I would much rather be inside a local church with people who are struggling to overcome hypocrisy than to be outside the church among people who embrace it as a virtue.