What About the Hypocrites in the Church ?
I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me this or something similar like—“a Christian I know is a phony”. Another objection to Christianity is—“Many non-Christians I know live better lives than Christians I know so doesn’t this show that Christianity doesn’t work?” How do we answer these statements or questions? The real issue here is that since Christians fall short of expectations, do the claims of Christ also fall short? Does hypocritical behavior in the church nullify the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Let’s examine the possibility that hypocrisy invalidates Christianity. Adherents of this view will bring up all the historical atrocities like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Salem witch trials. They will tell stories of Christians who cheated them in business, Christians who committed adultery, and ministers who were involved in scandals. The conclusion is that this behavior is the norm and makes it obvious that Christianity does not work. We can’t deny or defend the Crusades or the Inquisition, or that some ministers commit adultery. Nevertheless, it is also true that many professing Christians are not Christians at all. Certainly many true Christians still fumble the ball, and fall into sin of one kind or another. The admonishments of the New Testament letters make it obvious that Christians while forgiven, are not perfect yet. It is also true that these judgments come from people who being sinners themselves, are not qualified to judge.
For every example of hypocrisy we could recite multiple examples of righteous deeds and genuinely transformed lives. There are at least three false assumptions connected with the claim that Christians are hypocrites:
- Profession means possession. Being religious or being a member of a church does not make you a Christian. The Pharisees were the most religious men, but they did not believe in Jesus. Do you judge the quality of money by counterfeit money? No, the fact that counterfeit money exists doesn’t stop you from using money.
- The second false assumption is that Christians claim to be perfect.They only claim to be forgiven. The Bible is clear that we are not perfect yet, but hopefully we are growing and progressing. A Christian can only be compared to himself-he is better than he was. Therefore critics may put an unrealistic standard on Christians that they wouldn’t impose on themselves.
- Not all sin is hypocrisy. Sin is a general term, so all Christians are sinners, but not all are hypocrites. Christ reserved His harshest admonitions for hypocrites. Even though His disciples were sinners, He was very patient with them, but very impatient with the hypocrites. Jesus singled out the scribes and Pharisees who made an outward display of their righteousness but inwardly they were rotten hypocrites. Therefore the non-Christian who is opposed to hypocrisy actually agrees with Christ.
HYPOCRISY DOES NOT INVALIDATE CHRISTIANITY
Christians admit that they are not perfect, but they are forgiven by Jesus who is perfect. Even if the performance of the church is far from ideal, Christianity itself stands or falls on the person of Christ, not the performance of Christians. Virtually everyone who has studied Jesus’ life and teachings admits that Jesus was not a hypocrite. His commands were matched by His practice. He spoke of loving His enemies and He did. He spoke of being a servant and He was. He spoke of obedience to the Law and He alone obeyed it perfectly. His own disciples who lived with Him day and night for over 3 years declared Him to be sinless(1Peter 2:22; 1John 3:5).
Our message therefore is don’t let people prevent you from receiving the priceless gift that Jesus is offering. There are hypocrites in every walk of life. The business world is full of people who tell you that you can trust them, but you cannot. No one stops doing business because of hypocrites. Professional athletes say they don’t use drugs but you know some do. This does not prevent you from watching the games.
Usually, the charge of hypocrisy in the church is just a smoke screen, just a rationalization to hide the fact they have willfully rejected Christ. The only thing we as Christians can do is stress that the real issue is not the performance of Christians, but the person of Christ.
The prerequisite to becoming a Christian is an open admission that one is sinful and needs a Savior, so there is no debate whether we are sinners or not. THE ONLY DEBATE THEN IS WHETHER JESUS WAS SINLESS OR NOT. Let’s get the attention off of us and onto Christ—it’s all about Him.
This was an excerpt from “I’m Glad You Asked” by Boa and Moody