No doubt, there are dark spots in Christian history. Words such as the Crusades and the witch trials, among others, come to mind. But for many reading this, hypocrisy in the church is more of a personal thing. Perhaps you have experienced some sort of judgment or had a terrible experience by a pastor, teacher or church member over the years. Maybe you felt you weren’t accepted. Or perhaps you have witnessed how some Christian leaders used their church position and influence to collect power and money. In short, sometimes, it seems, the best argument against Christians are Christians themselves.
These objections are very real for this author, and Jesus dealt with them famously in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Notice Luke 10:30-32 (ESV):
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
What is Jesus doing here? He’s admitting the truth of hypocrisy among very religious people. Each of the characters in this story was off to do something religious—“I have to get to the church to do my duties.” And in the line with their duty, they step over someone who is truly hurting and in need.
You know, occasionally I gaze at the conduct of many Christians in our culture and I really wonder if we care more about being right factually than we do about people. Yes, proper theology is needed and can’t be dumped. Correct Orthodoxy equals correct orthopraxy.
But if we are against something biblically (as we ought to), it should only be because we are for the people that are hurting, and that should come through in how we dialog about it. Remember: Jesus taught about trying to eliminate a crumb of dust from our brother’s eye when we have a plank in our own (Matthew 7:3-5).
In Luke 10:33-35, the Jews had the correct theology. Yet, the Samaritan acted more God-focused than the Jews, and God used this Samaritan to correct the Jewish people.
As Christians, we have to be meek enough to receive correction from any person—even if we think they are wrong biblically and even if it’s not done in a loving way. Honestly, many times in my life I have had people who weren’t Christians point out contradictions in my life. And, while I never liked it one bit, I’m grateful. We must accept truth in whatever way it comes to us.
But what do you do the next time someone tells you, “The church is full of hypocrites”? You can simply say, “You don’t even how much!” The greatest enemies of the church aren’t agnostics, scientists, atheists, Muslims or cultists, but pharisaical and nominal “Christians” who acknowledge Jesus with their lips but deny him by their lifestyle. True Christians aren’t hypocrites; they’re repentant sinners—big difference (2 Cor. 7:6-10). Hypocrites are those who pretend to be what they never intend to be. Hypocrites love what God can do for them, but true Christians love God for who He is. The hypocrite asks, “How little can I give and still be noticed?” The truly saved Christian asks, “How much can I give without being noticed?”
You may have been hurt by church people, but you should only give up on the local church when Jesus does (which is never) and not a second sooner.
Do you want to honor Jesus in the way you engage others? Don’t be easily offended. Be gracious. Give others the benefit of the doubt. And know God can work through all sinners—including yourself—for His glory.