One charge that has been lodged at Christians over the years is that we’re all just a bunch of hypocrites. We don’t practice what we preach. We preach love and mercy, but scorn those with different ideas or views. Some people refuse to become Christians because of that. Some people even refuse to go to church because of that. I will admit that there are people who claim to be Christians but live in ways that sometimes are no better than that of an unbeliever, or sometimes is worse than unbeliever (sometimes the unbeliever is living a more moral lifestyle than the believer)! What are we to make of this?
FIRST OFF, THE TRUTH OF A WORLDVIEW HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE CHARACTER OF THOSE WHO ADHERE TO IT.
The fact that there are Christians who don’t live the way Jesus intended for them to live has absolutely no baring on the truth of Christianity. Christianity could be true regardless of whether every Christian lived the way Jesus wanted them to live or whether no one lived the way Jesus wanted them to live. There’s just no relation between a truth claim and the one making the truth claim. In fact, to reject a truth claim based on the character of the one making the claim is to commit a logical fallacy known as the “ad hominem fallacy”. We must weigh the evidence for Christianity and come to a conclusion based on the evidence, not based on the character or lifestyles of those professing to be Christians.
In our search for truth, we must be guided by the facts. Even if the person making a truth claim is arrogant, abusive, unintelligent, smelly, or otherwise deficient in character, we must judge the claim based on its own merits. If we don't, we commit the ad hominem fallacy.
However, since many unbelievers do judge Christianity based on the character of Christians, I beseech every one of my brothers and sisters reading this to stay close to Christ. Pray to the Lord that you may produce many fruits of The Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), that you may do many good works so that unbelievers may see your good works and praise our Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16), and ultimately, love one another so that they will see that we are true disciples of Christ (John 13:35).
JESUS HIMSELF HATED HYPOCRISY
Jesus showed no tolerance towards those who did not practice what they preached. On a few occasions He gave the Pharisees (the religious leaders of Jesus’ day) a serious tongue lashing because of the outrage He had towards their hypocrisy. One of the longest and most scathing of these is found in Matthew 23. I’m not going to include the entire chapter for the sake of brevity, but I will show some of it.
Before Jesus openly rebuked the Pharisees, He warned His followers to do what they told them to do, but not to imitate their lifestyle. What the religious leaders taught was right. The problem was, they didn’t behave according to their own teaching. (see Matthew 23:1-11)
Then Jesus turned to the religious leaders and gave the scathing tongue lashing.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside is full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started! You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” – Matthew 23:14-33
If you are a non-believer and see a Christian who is a hypocrite, and you feel disgusted by their hypocrisy, you’re in good company. Hypocrisy disgusted Jesus too. Jesus would be just as disgusted as you are at people who claim to be Christians and yet bully homosexuals, or might turn away someone from their church because they’re covered in tattoos, or treats you unkindly because you’re, say, an atheist or whatever. Jesus condemns self righteousness. He condemns being unkind to lost sinners. He condemns the turning away of anyone who might be spiritually seeking.
Gandi once said “I like your Christ, but not your Christians. They are so much unlike your Christ.” I say that if you like our Christ but not our Christians. Then follow our Christ and not our Christians.
THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT ALL PEOPLE ARE SINNERS
One of the reasons Christians, even the ones who are doing in general what Jesus wants them to, for the most part, tend to do what a Christian shouldn’t do is because all men are sinners. The Bible teaches that everyone is a sinner (Romans 3:23, Psalm 14:1-2, Proverbs 20:9, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Job 9:2-4). We’ve all inherited a sinful nature from the first two human beings, Adam and Eve (see Romans 5, Psalm 51). Therefore, because of this sinful nature, we have a natural inclination towards wrong doing. Because of the sin nature, we have a natural leaning towards doing things that God disapproves of. However, when we come to Christ, we are “born again” which means to become a brand new person in Christ (John 3, 2 Corinthians 5:17). Over time, the longer we’re Christians, the more we pray and study scripture, we’ll become better and better people over time. This is a process known as sanctification. Nobody’s perfect. Not even the most devout Christians. But those who truly love the Lord seek to do His will. Those who truly love The Lord will try their hardest to please God and to not do anything that displeases Him (see John 14:15, 1 John 5:2-5). The longer we’re Christians, the longer we develop our relationship with God, and the closer we get to Him, over time we’ll start producing the fruits of The Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Sanctification is a slow process.
BECOME A NON-HYPOCRITICAL CHRISTIAN
Even if you are right that most or all Christians are hypocrites, why should that stop you from becoming one of the few NON-hypocritical ones? Don’t forget that the truth of a worldview/religion has no bearing on the character of those who adhere to it. But moreover, you could become a Christian yourself and be an example to those are hypocrites. God can use you to change His church into what He wants it to be.