Summary: The editor-in-chief of Bible Study magazine addresses hypocrisy in the Church and explains how to limit hypocrisy in your life.
Is the Church full of hypocrisy? At many points in my life I have thought, "Yes. Most definitely, yes. The Church is full of hypocrisy." At other times I have thought, "Well, it is not as bad as I thought it was." But, I have never thought, "There is no hypocrisy in the Church." That would simply be a lie. Saying there is no hypocrisy in the church is like saying, "All politicians and lawyers tell the truth." Or, "Everything I hear on TV or read in the newspaper is true."
The biggest problem is not necessarily that we lie--although that is a problem--the problem is that we lie about the liars or prefer to ignore that they exist. Many of us even lie about our own lies. Take a child who has just stolen a cookie out of the cookie jar. You ask them, "Did you take a cookie out of the cookie jar?" And they say, "No, of course not," when there is cookie crumbs on their shirt and chocolate all over their face and fingers. You reply, "Then why is there cookie crumbs on your shirt and chocolate all over face and fingers?" They respond, "I don’t know how that got there," or "My sister made me do it."
Hypocrisy begins when we not only take the cookie, but lie about the cookie crumbs and chocolate all over us. Hypocrisy begins when we begin to ignore the double lives we and the people around us are so prone to live.
The other day I was talking to a friend of mine and he said something that really struck me: "The biggest reason why I doubt that there is a God is because of Christians. I know so many people who claim to believe in Christ, but live a life that is exactly opposite of what Jesus taught." I can sympathize with that. Why are there so many people who claim to believe in God, but yet do such terrible things? I believe there is an answer. The answer is that we have not learned yet how to respond to God. It is my intention this evening to show you that the problem with Christianity is not God and it is not Jesus; it is people--people who have not learned how to respond to God.
People let people down; that is simply what people do. Who here has been let down before? We have all been let down by our friends, spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, children, colleagues, bosses, and worst of all, our church leaders. I cannot apologize on behalf of those who have let you down, but I can apologize on behalf of the church. If you are here and the church has let you down, or someone in the church has seriously done wrong by you, I am sorry. Please forgive that person; please forgive the church. The only reason why I can say this so boldly is because I too have been wronged by church leaders and the church--countless times in fact. It has made me hesitate; sometimes it has even made me doubt why I believe in the church. But, good things can come out of bad circumstances.
I founded a ministry out of bad circumstances. Here’s the story. I was very involved with a local ministry to college students. This ministry began to do things I didn’t approve of; they began to do things I did not think God approved of. It really bothered me, so I eventually told the leader of the ministry that I did not want to be part of the ministry any longer. He then said to me, "Why, because you don’t believe in God; because you do not want to follow the will of Jesus?" This man actually thought he could judge where I was at with God. Of course, I was deeply offended; it was enough for me to not want to go to church ever again. I prayed a lot that day and the following days. As I was praying, I asked God, "Why should I continue to believe in your church, when it is so messed up?" If you do not know already, God appreciates honesty. I was being honest. God responded, but not in the way I expected. He showed me that I needed to believe in Him, not in people, not in an institution. My belief in Him didn’t revolve around people. After all, people will always let you down. My belief was in God. God then showed me that instead of being a further part of the problem by rebelling from the church, I needed to be part of the solution, by being the church.
Biblically speaking, the church is people congregating together. The church is people. People are the church. The church at its best is full of people seeking God by the grace He has given them. (But, of course those same people who have grace will continue to make mistakes.) Through bad circumstances, I learned the definition of Church. I learned that Church did not mean perfection, the Church meant being with people who are seeking God in the midst of our imperfections. The Church is full of imperfect people, who are being made perfect by God.