One of the biggest concerns about the church is that it is full of hypocrites – people who claim to be followers of Jesus but who live a life that is in some ways not Christlike at all. While this objection has perhaps been eclipsed in recent years with the idea that faith is somehow backwards (or in Ireland, dangerous), it’s still out there. And not without good reason. We should be able to expect more, to expect better from purported disciples of the Most High God.
I’ve been bitten by hypocrisy in many ways. Church leaders who always seem to defer to their own agenda (or the agenda of some “important” church members). Ministry partners who are all smiles and handshakes after the church service but will stab you in the back at the office. Friends who are your friend only on certain days of the week. It stings every time, and I am speaking from the perspective of one who has been involved in church leadership over the course of decades and in widely divergent cultural contexts. Want to know what I’ve learned?
Wondering why there are so many hypocrites in the church is like asking why there are so many sick people at the hospital.
And hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:17 [NASB]
The church is not a place where the perfect people of the world get together. It’s not a think tank where the most holy and righteous of us labor to solve the world’s problems. I’ve spoken here and there about what the process of sanctification looks like, and it doesn’t paint Christians (myself included) in a very positive light. Nor should it! The overwhelming message of Scripture is not a bunch of good people getting even better. It’s about a loving God who, from the very beginning, was willing to go to the ends of the earth to redeem a fallen and broken people. And what about those people? They certainly weren’t the type you’d want to get mixed up with – hotheads, liars, cheaters, killers, zealots, etc.
Bottom line, if we waited until we were perfect, we’d never get in the door. And since the Christian life is often compared to a “walk” in the Bible, we’d do well to remember what it takes to learn to walk. Even though the church may not be filled only with people we’d choose to hang out with, we should be active in encouraging one another to learn how to walk as God calls us to walk – not as meeting some artificial external standard, but making the changes He has already made inside of us show on the outside.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2 [NASB]
Making our walk match our talk – isn’t that the opposite of hypocrisy?