Now and Then

by Bob James

"I wouldn't go to any church. All those people are hypocrites!" You've heard that said, maybe even said that about Christians, haven't you? Are Christians really hypocrites? or is that just a broad generalization? If it is true, how do we remedy the situation? If not true, how do we change the false perception.?

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ:" Philippians 2:3-6 (NASB)

I guess before we decide whether or not someone is a hypocrite, we need to agree on the definition of a hypocrite. The word originally means someone who is playing a part. Hypocrites falsely claim to hold a set of beliefs as long as those beliefs suit their purposes. I think of a hypocrite as someone who says one thing, but does another.

Assuming that those simplistic definitions are acceptable, then we can delve into the depths of hypocrisy and see if Christians really are hypocrites, and what we can do about it. If hypocrites really say one thing, but do another, then it is possible to say that any Christian who sins is a hypocrite. Is that stretching it? Perhaps, but isn't that the reason many people accuse Christians of being hypocrites?

If that is true, perhaps we need to understand that people call Christians hypocrites because we do believe in high standards but we don't live up to them. When I note the bitterness in the voice of those who label Christians as hypocrites, I often wonder if they aren't bitter because they keep hoping that maybe someone will live up to those high standards. "If only someone would live like Jesus, I could believe in Him."

When we don't live up to the high standards of Jesus Christ we discover, like David, that those who don't believe in God show utter contempt for God because of our actions. ( see II Samuel 12) The truth of the matter is that we can NEVER completely live up to those high standards. Our inablity to live up to those standards; we call those actions sins, is due to our imperfect relationship with God; we call that Sin.

We could very easily stop being hypocrites...we could lower our standards. That solution is unacceptable, though. So how do we deal with the problem of reaching people who are concerned about our hypocrisy?

I like to agree with people when they accuse me or other Christians of being hypocrites. After they get over the shock of my agreement, I then ask them if the fact that Christians are hypocrites bothers them. When they give the obvious answer, I ask why.

They usually answer with something like "Christians think they are better than everybody else and try to meddle in all kinds of issues, but they live the same way everybody else does." Think about those kinds of answers. In essence they are upset because Christians aren't better than others. In other words, they are grieved over the same things God grieves over!

Perhaps the question needs to be restated some: "How can Christians proclaim the need for high standards in life without becoming 'holier-than-thou?'" Often, the problem is that when Christians speak out about sins, we often appear to hate the sin and the sinner. If we have the same attitude that Jesus Christ had we will be able to hate the sinful activities, but love people in spite of their sins.

Prayer of commitment: I come to you Heavenly Father recognizing that I do not follow You as completely as I should. I ask that you cleanse my heart and mind so I may have the same attitude that Jesus Christ has. Let my life lead others to know of your love and grace. Amen

(NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible (c) 1975 by The Lockman Foundation.)

(c) 1997 by Bob James. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to distribute this article to others without charge as long as this notice is attached. This article may not be distributed commercially either individually or as part of any anthology without the express written consent of the author.


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