Summary: A hypocrite is literally “one who hides behind a mask.” While there certainly are some believers who are hypocrites, real Christians are forgiven sinners. As we distinguish the difference between being real and being a mask-wearer, we recognize that bel
Why Are There So Many Hypocrites?
Rev. Brian Bill
Armed with hidden cameras, a recent Dateline NBC program depicted what goes on behind the scenes at some used car lots. It was incredible. A couple of the salesmen had no problem lying to potential customers. They went out of their way to cover-up any mechanical problems.
With apologies to any of you who do this for a living, the used car business has a knock against it. It’s hard to know if you’re being told everything. When I was watching this show, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of a story they would uncover if they installed hidden cameras in the church. What would the secret tape look like if they also shot some film when churchgoers were in their cars, at their jobs, and in their homes?
It’d be quite a story, wouldn’t it? I can see the headlines now...Christians Who Play Charades or Pretenders in the Pews. It would confirm what many already believe -- that the church is full of hypocrites. It’s difficult to believe Christianity is true when so many of its followers lead such contradictory lives.
That reminds me of the man who told the pastor that he doesn’t go to church because there are so many hypocrites there. The pastor responded by saying, “Oh, don’t let that stop you. There’s always room for one more.”
Some of what you will hear this morning originally appeared in an article I wrote for the Daily Leader last summer. I don’t want to give you the impression that everything I’m going to say is brand new. In other words, I don’t want to be a hypocrite while I’m speaking on hypocrisy.
We grow tired of people saying one thing and living something that’s completely opposite. According to the dictionary, a hypocrite is “a person who pretends to have beliefs or practices which he or she does not actually possess.” As used in the Bible, the term comes from ancient Greek theater, where one actor would often play two parts. When saying something humorous, he would hold up a mask with a smiley face; when playing a tragic part, he would hold up a mask with a sad face. A good actor could imitate the speech, mannerisms, and conduct of the character he was portraying. The word literally means, “One who hides behind a mask.”
One hot day when they had guests for dinner, a mother asked her four-year-old boy named Johnny to say the blessing for the meal. Johnny didn’t really want to and complained, “Mom, I don’t know what to say!” The mother sweetly replied, in front of her guests, “Oh, just say what you hear me say.” Obediently, Johnny bowed his head and mumbled, “Oh Lord, why did I invite these people over on such a hot day?”
I want to suggest this morning that one of the reasons why there are hypocrites in the church is because not all church people are Christians. Going to church will not automatically change anyone’s behavior. People go for all sorts of reasons -- maybe out of habit or ritual, maybe to seek the truth, or perhaps to just network with other people.
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going into a garage makes you a car. We have to live with the possibility that what some people perceive as hypocrisy in the church is in fact, the result of mistaken identity. Some people are no more Christians than I’m Hispanic just because I happen to love Mexican food. Some people just look like they’re Christians because they get up on Sundays and go to a place called a church.
Actually, this should take some pressure off those of you who are investigating Christianity. You’re not expected to act like a Christian if you’re not one yet. As you seek and ask questions, don’t get all caught up in what you should do, or shouldn’t do. Once you surrender your life to Christ, He’ll begin changing you from the inside out. You don’t have to manufacture Christian behavior on your own. He’ll give you the desire and the power to change -- after you receive Christ into your life.
OK. So some people in the church are not really Christians in the first place. That leads to another question, doesn’t it? Why does it appear that so many true Christians are hypocrites? I think it results from some confusion about what a real Christian is. In fact, as we better understand what a true Christian is, we’ll have a better understanding of what a hypocrite is. I’d like to suggest 3 distinctives of genuine Christians. These characteristics deal with the present, the past, and the future.
1. Real Christians Are Forgiven Sinners. Let’s start with the present. The first feature of a bona fide Christian is that they are forgiven sinners. Perhaps you’ve seen the bumper sticker that reads, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” The Bible never says that Christ followers are perfect. It does say that those who surrender their lives to Him will be perfectly forgiven.