Tuesday, October 29, 2013


According to one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, "The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." Which is just a much more eloquent way of saying that the world thinks we’re a bunch of hypocrites. Chances are, if you have attended Church for any period of time, associated with anyone who claims to be religious, or lived on planet Earth, you have heard this accusation thrown around. Maybe you've even made the claim yourself. Truth be told, it’s an all too common accusation thrown at Christians.

To be quite honest, most of the time, the claim is warranted. I have a friend who wants nothing to do with Jesus because his father, a very religious man, was active in the local church but behind closed doors was abusive. Another friend continues to distance herself from anyone associated with the church because of their judgmental glares about her lifestyle choices. Bombarded, by the media, with news of scandal after scandal surrounding church leaders has left a bitter taste in the mouths of some of my closest friends. I have relatives that label Christians as hypocrites because time-after-time their trust has been broken and their feelings were hurt by the arrogance of a pastor. And I can list countless individuals I know (some former pastors), who despise the Christian faith because, to them, it seems to be the most unforgiving, judgmental religion on the planet. So, the label 'hypocrite' may not be too far off.

Whatever their reasoning, I understand. I, too, have personally encountered the hypocrisy they see in our communities of faith. And if I'm at all honest, the number of times I have been the hypocrite who has turned others away are too numerous to count. I lead a small group at my church where I talk about the importance of community, and yet I find myself too busy to make time for others, bear their burdens, or enjoy their company. I am part of accountability groups, stressing the importance of authenticity, all the while keeping my own secrets tucked away in the darkest corners of my heart. I preach sermons about denying yourself to follow Christ, yet I own two vehicles--one of which is a BMW, have multiple televisions and a closet full of clothes. I stress the importance of being a good steward (with everything, not just money), yet I have been known to enjoy a $5 cup of coffee. Many Sundays I haphazardly recite the lyrics to numerous worship songs about giving God my all, while simultaneously creating a mental check-list of everything I need to accomplish once service is over.

Does that make my a hypocrite?

According to this individual, it does. "The problem with [Christians] lies not only in an oft-noted failure to practice what they preach, but an equally pronounced tendency to ignore what the Bible itself, preaches. Christians practice what can only be described as ‘selective morality.’ What they like, they cling to and shove down other’s throats; what they don’t like, they ignore vehemently. That which is palatable and acceptable is supposedly applicable to all; while that which is obnoxious, inconvenient, or self-denying is only applicable to those addressed 2,000 years ago. Their hypocrisy is so rampant that even the validity of calling oneself ‘Christian’ is in question.”

By these standards, all Christians are hypocrites! Every last one of us has ignored parts of the Bible that seem a bit too difficult, too inconvenient, too extreme. We, like the experts in the law of Jesus' day, constantly rationalize our own interpretations of his words. In order to justify our actions (or in-actions), we tirelessly search for even the smallest loophole--surely that man isn't my neighbor, giving to the poor would only enable them, evangelism isn't my responsibility as an introvert, as long as I don't idolize this it's okay, or Jesus was speaking metaphorically, he doesn't expect me to do that.

But I’m going to pause for a second here. Just in case you feel that you have managed to meticulously uphold the teachings of Jesus, I offer you an out. If you, like the rich young ruler, honestly believe "I've obeyed all these commands since I was young," then by all means stop reading. Go about the rest of your day. Listening to another hypocrite would only prove to be a waste of your time.

Now, for the rest of us. I think there is more to this whole hypocrisy thing than meets the eye. Perhaps our view of hypocrisy isn't the same as Jesus' view. Maybe the way we define hypocrisy, is not the way Jesus defines hypocrisy. Perhaps the lines have been blurred between being a sinner in need of a savior and being a hypocrite.

Which we will get to soon.