People often dismiss the church because they claim Christians are hypocrites. And all non-Christians have a perfect symbiotic relationship between belief and practice, right? Wrong, but Christians need a better answer than, “You do it too!”
A comment about Christians being hypocrites came up yesterday while teaching Sunday School. I was teaching from James 3 on taming the tongue. The gist of the comment was that if Christians would tame their tongue (through the power of the Holy Spirit) and stop gossiping, etc. unbelievers would not call us hypocrites.
Generally speaking, are Christians really hypocrites? I don’t think so.
First, let’s define hypocrite. What I understand the charge to mean is the following definition from Merriam-Webster, “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” A hypocrite shows a pattern of hypocrisy rather than someone who occasionally falls short of their professed beliefs.
For example, take a Christian who states that all Christians should attend a local church on Sunday. Now, this Christian, out of 48 Sundays in a given year, only attended his local church 40 times (for whatever reasons). I would not label that person as a hypocrite. This person has a generally consistent pattern of following their stated belief about church attendance.
More often than not, the person throwing around the hypocrite charge at Christians is merely using it as an excuse. Every person, Christian or not, will fall short of their stated beliefs. Yet, people do not normally look for any possible inconsistency in others in order to avoid something.
The point is: don’t ignore inconsistent Christian behavior and tell the objector they are a hypocrite too. Once the definition of hypocrite is out of the way explain that inconsistent Christian behavior is called sin. And God is well aware of our sin.
Use one of several places in the Bible of Christians sinning in the early church. Take an example from James 3:
With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:9-10 ESV)
Then, move to the gospel. Explain that not only is God aware of His children’s sins, in the early church and now, but He provided a solution for those sins found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Christian, don’t run from the hypocrisy charge, engage it with the gospel.
For the Kingdom…