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Christians are Hypocrites?

October 12, 2012

We have all heard it before. In fact, if you have been living and paying attention at all in the past couple decades I can promise you have heard this once or twice before. The claim is made by opponents to the faith as well as those within. “Christians are a bunch of hypocrites.” We hear this from atheists, followers of other faiths, and Christians themselves. People use this almost universally as an argument against Christianity and/or the Church. But is it true?

The first logical step is to define what is meant by hypocrisy. Basically the essence of hypocrisy is to say one thing and do another. An easy example of this is the Christian who claims to believe the Bible’s teaching that it is wrong to lie and steal (which is true) and then is found to be cheating on their taxes. That person is then behaving like a hypocrite. Another example would be someone who claims to value tolerance but knows for sure that Christians are racist, bigot, homophobes (there’s another article there somewhere.)

With this basic definition, and the undeniable evidence that there are those people in the world who claim to be Christians and do not act in a consistent manner with their faith, we have to conclude that this claim of critics is absolutely right. Christians have been guilty of hypocrisy. When faced with this challenge most Christians have no idea how to respond. They usually have one of two reactions. Lets look at each:

Reaction #1: Denial
This is a fairly basic “defense.” To simply deny the claims and evidence that Christians are guilty of hypocrisy. This is done in variety of ways but probably the most common is to point out that not all people who claim to be Christians actually are Christians. This is true in itself and is a valid point. However, can the person making this claim apply it in their own life? This supposes a type of Christian perfectionism which is clearly not what the Binle teaches. We all struggle with remaining sin in our lives even after God gives us a new heart. Even the apostle Paul struggled with this (see Romans 7.) If the great apostle to the Gentiles can struggle with sin dare we think ourselves any better? I think not.

Because we still struggle then there will be times when we say one thing and do another. We agree with the Bible that stealing, lying, and lust are wrong. Ever stole? Ever said something that was not true? Ever looked at a woman (or man) in an inappropriate way? If you can say no to these then you may be guilty of the second one. Doing this is an example of hypocrisy and we are all guilty from time to time. Bottom line: denying does not work.

Reaction #2: Capitualtion
The other response is one of complete agreement and capitulation to the charges. These are the people who roll over and apologize whenever this accusation is levied. They basically give up, tuck their tail firmly between their legs, and go home. I am being a little dramatic here but it sickens me when we simply cave under the pressure of the world and let the enemies of Christ take away our witness.

What is the answer here? If we capitulate to these charges then what? Do we go back and try and do better? This takes us back down the path of perfectionism. Don’t forget that we still struggle with sin and will never be perfect in this life. We cannot support the message of Christ if we think we have to completely clean up our act first.

Responding to the Charge: Use Your Weakness
There was a little known movie that came out in the early 90’s called “By The Sword” (starring Eric Roberts if such things are important to you.) It was a story of two fencing instructors. I can guarantee that most people reading this have never heard of it but, as a former fencer, I enjoyed the movie very much. There is a scene where we see the significant differences in the styles of the two instructors. The first teaches his students to probe for their opponents weakness and, when they find it, strike. The second teaches his students to be aware of their own weakness and use it. He says, “the good ones try and cover their’s up. The great ones use their’s. Use your weakness.” This is the message I would give to those responding to the charge of hypocrisy in the Christian faith, “use your weakness.”

Rather than denying or capitulating to this accusation, we need to acknowledge it and then use it as a springboard for the gospel. The fact of the matter is that we are not perfect and THAT IS THE POINT!!! The Bible clearly teaches that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23 NASB). All includes Christians. We still sin and are still in need of the grace of God. There is no magic that happens when we become Christians that makes us perfect and holy. Tough we are regenerated and should take no joy in sin, we are still infected with it. I believe that God allows this so we will never rest on our own righteousness and lean completely on Him. Don’t get me wrong, we should be seeing growth in our lives and a moving further from sin as we mature in faith. But it will never be gone and as we grow we will be continually confronted with areas of sin that we never realized. This should bring us to our knees in repentance, worship and gratitude to Christ.

We have a great message to tell those who accuse us of hypocrisy. We are not perfect, we don’t do enough good and the truth is that no one does and that is why we need Christ. That is why He bled and died on the cross so that our sin would be cleansed and His righteousness would be upon us. This is the good news of the gospel which is impossible to understand outside of the bad news of sin.

The best example of this approach I have seen was done by Todd Friel during what I think was one of his college discussions. I am not certain where or when this took place but he does a great job in using his weakness and driving the gospel straight home. I leave you with this good example.

God bless.

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