Are Christians Hypocrites?
Are Christians hypocrites?
I've run across a variation of this theme in three separate conversations so far this week, so I've been pondering what I believe about it. The basic premise seems to be that, in order to proclaim that you're a Christian, you are accepting a certain standard of behaviour. Put another way, there are things that you are and aren't supposed to do in order to be a Christian. Examples of this can be in regards to your ethics (not being willing to cheat or steal), your conduct (being kind, polite, not using crass language), or your view of certain issues (sex before marriage or homosexuality). These examples run the gamut and there seems to be no end of the "rules" that Christians are supposed to follow, if you are proclaiming yourself to be one. Following this train of thought, if you break any one of these rules, you are guilty of being a hypocrite because you are proclaiming to be something that you aren't living up to.
I grew up thinking like this, with a list of rules that I aspired to follow, but seemingly never could. It led to a perpetual guilt over my failings… feeling like I was constantly a disappointment to my God and to the church that I was a part of, let alone to the parents who raised me and instructed me in these rules. This perpetual guilt led me into depression and a lot of destructive behaviours associated with self-loathing. It also led me into scathing condemnation of all Christians for failing to live up to this standard and for presenting a terrible example to the world of what Christ has done for us. You see, when you view Christianity as a standard of living, a standard of righteousness that we all need to live up to, you inevitably set yourself up for this kind of failure. Are some point you are confronted with your own inability to meet the standard you say you hold… and you realize no one else around you can either. Sure, they may act like they do and they put up a good face while in public and, especially, church meetings. But really, deep down, we all know that somewhere beneath that veneer of respectability is behaviour that is no better than the rest of us.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)
Here's the problem with having this kind of perspective: it views Christianity as a religion, made up of rules and perspectives that people are supposed to adhere to. It views Christianity as a belief structure and a guideline construct. Christianity was never supposed to be like that. In fact, Jesus repeatedly castigated and verbally flayed the purveyors of this mentality in His day. Whenever a leader or a Pharisee talked to Jesus about the rules or about what He was supposed to do, they were in for a tongue lashing. Jesus took them to task more than anyone else. He hated this mentality.
Religious thinking completely ignores grace. God knows that we can't live up to His standard. That's why God sent His Son to the Earth to become a once-for-all sacrifice that would pay for our sin. Whenever we don't live up to the standard, God still sees us through the shed blood of Christ. He sees us through the lens of Jesus' righteousness. Because of this, Christianity isn't about the set of rules we follow, it's actually about our acceptance of Jesus. It's not a belief structure, it's a relationship with the one who died and rose again in order to reconcile me to God.
When looked at from this perspective, we aren't hypocrites at all. We're people. We're just like those around us. We're not necessarily any better or worse behaved than anyone else. The difference is that we've accepted Jesus and have an ongoing relationship with Him. We've accepted His sacrifice, the grace that He gave and continues to give. We have recognized our inability to be "good" on our own and know that we are nothing without the saving grace of Jesus. This is what drives our worship and is at the very core of our existence. We owe Jesus everything and we cling to that relationship.
When we forget this relationship and revert back to a law that must be upheld, we are hypocrites in every way. When we make Christianity a religion and a belief structure, we cannot uphold the standard and falsely proclaim our identity to the world. Thank God that Christianity isn't that. We know that we're weak, fallible, imperfect, flawed, and yet still loved by God. We know that we can never match up, but we know that Jesus does and we are now hidden in Christ. (Col 3:3)
You see, we're not preaching one thing to the world while living a different way. We're just preaching the goodness of Christ who reached into our imperfect lives. We're not hypocrites unless we forget this grace and go back to living by rules. God forbid we should ever do so and invalidate everything that Christ died for.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us (Rom 8:1-4a)