“I don’t go to church, because Christians are nothing but hypocrites!”
This charge is often levied against churches, or the people who attend them.
“I know a guy/girl who goes to church, and acts Christian, but they did this, or that.” “I talked to this pastor, and he was a jerk.” “At least I’m real and true to who I am, Christians pretend like they are perfect or righteous.”
Let’s cut past all the subterfuge and subtlety. Are Christians hypocrites? Yes. Every single one. Hypocrisy is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. By definition, Christians have moral beliefs, set forth by God’s word, to which we desire to adhere. But every single Christian fails in this task. Every single one falls short, and I dare say this happens daily in the heart and minds of each, if not in actions.
Jesus says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” The moment this expectation, demanded by a holy God (for what else could infinite perfection demand), has failed to come to fruition, even in the smallest of ways, we have by definition become hypocrites and in fact, lawbreakers. We have failed to live up to a moral standard we accept as right.
But let us consider an atheist, who by definition, has a subjective moral code, derived from either ones own opinion, from popular opinion, or from the opinion of those who are in charge and can force a citizenry to exercise a particular behavior. In these instances, a moral code also exists, albeit one that is not handed down from a perfect creator, but is instead decided upon by mankind. If we reflect on the results of these subjective moral laws, depending on the flexible moral code of a given society, then two results can generally be expected:
- If you live in a morally stringent society with heavily girded laws, as a citizen subject to these agreed upon codes, any violation of these codes renders you a hypocrite, and a law breaker, i.e. anyone who disagrees with Sharia.
- If you live in a morally relativistic society, defined by anarchy, nihilism, or lawlessness, or if you have determined within your own subjective mind that your behavior should fit no moral code (i.e. sociopath, or in religion – New Ageism), then you have absolved yourself from consequence to escape guilt. Anything goes.
Number 2 is extreme, and approaches mental disorder, however the reality in everyday life is a combination of the two. Often one who wishes for the freedom to be flexible in beliefs finds themselves to be militaristic towards anyone who holds to an opposite view, like during an abortion or transgenderism conversation, thereby pitting one set of subjective beliefs against another, if there is indeed no standard, and neither of which has more merit.
The reality is, therefore, to escape being a hypocrite against whichever moral code you reside under,
you must either operate perfectly within that framework – nigh impossible, or
you must adopt a framework with a moral bar set so low that you can’t help but live up to its standard, and then defend it militantly to escape any shame and guilt associated with those behaviors, or
you must constantly be ‘moving the goal posts’ within an ever changing set of standards, which is by definition, not a standard at all.
With careful, logical scrutiny, one could conclude that every acceptable moral set of beliefs would inherently have as its members nothing but hypocrites, all of whom are constantly trying, and re-trying, to live up to the expectations they believe in. As it is with every pursuit in life, from sports, to education, to religion, to parenting, human experiences are riddled with failures, and shortfalls. We strive for excellence in these pursuits, though we may never achieve perfection, and in so doing we work to better ourselves. It is the same with our walk in Christ, and for this walk we use the word sanctification, a lifelong and constant goal. The alternative, in Christianity, as well as sports/parenting/education, is to set the standard so low, that you feel validated by sub-par character and performance. This is no way to enrich a life, or the lives of those around you.
The result of this constant falling short is accepting the reality of hypocrisy. This is why Christians should gather in churches, as it is a place not only for worshiping the one person who set up the holiest standard possible, and then lived up to it, but also to surround yourselves with those who cannot, and are there to love and support each other. This is the essence of the body of Christ. Those who recognize that despite all human effort, they are in need of grace and mercy from a holy Creator.
Let me save you the trouble of pointing it out. You will not find perfect Christians in church. Christians struggle with anger, alcohol, sexual immorality, hate, depression, gossip – oh Lord the gossip, among a myriad of other sins. Yes we hide them, yes we don’t like to announce our struggles and shames from the mountain tops, and yes we pray for forgiveness constantly for not being as good as we can be. But there is peace and joy in Christ, in grace, and in knowing that we can let go of all of our missteps and focus the next day on how to love better. And despite these struggles, there is a concerted effort (or should be in a healthy church group) to do good works, to support others, and to be generous with the gifts that we do have.
If you are a non-believer that has had an unpleasant experience with a Christian, please realize that this person is struggling daily to do what is right, or may be going through his or her own temptations or trials, just like you. To dismiss thousands of years and mounds of evidence of revelation from God, to dismiss all His good works to bring about a savior, and our relationship with Him, and to dismiss the reality of eternal life with that Creator, because you interacted with someone who fell short in their walk is to dismiss the very reason we need Jesus Christ. In fact, as an unbeliever, are you not claiming to have a problem with a belief to which you do not conform? Is that not hypocrisy?
So if someone finally reaches the conclusion that he or she has fallen short of God’s perfect moral standard, that they are ready to admit that they are a hypocrite in their own right, based on the moral law written on their heart, then they can safely come to a church of believers. They are in good company, a place full of hypocrites, who all have fallen short, and all wish to experience freedom from their sins. If I see you there, I will do my best to lift you up, and do life with you. But I am a hypocrite too, so I may fail, and need forgiveness from time to time.