No one likes a hypocrite—someone who says one thing and does another. Among all hypocrites, the Christian hypocrite is perhaps most unlikable and most visible. Shouldn't those named as followers of Jesus Christ be, instead, most able to follow through on the beliefs they uphold?
No matter who you are, you have certainly been hurt or offended by a "Christian hypocrite." The blame belongs entirely to us, and not to Jesus. At least three reasons explain the problem.
1. The person claiming to follow Jesus Christ isn't a true Christian
There are two kinds of false Christians: those who are deceptive, and those who are ignorant.
"Beware of false prophets [preachers], who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruit."
~ Jesus, Matthew 7:15-16 (NKJV)
The person is downright dangerous who uses God's name or words as leverage to advance personal agenda. Although cult leaders fall into this category, so do many other appealing religious personalities, whose message never actually exalts Jesus Christ as Lord and God.
Jesus taught that the way to discern between true and false teachers is to examine the fruit of their lives. Whatever their good deeds, however successful or persuasive, false teachers fail to produce the spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22-23) of thankful joy, peace amid affliction or conflict, patience (with trying people and situations), active kindness, goodness in response to evil, faith to confront uncertainty, humble gentleness, self-control (rather than gratification of unhealthy desires), and, above all, selfless love.
Like the devil himself, false preachers are agents of darkness who masquerade as ministers of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Such people, and their message, are to be rejected.
Other false Christians, however, are trying to be right. But they are going about it the wrong way, according to their own definition of right and wrong, in ignorance of God's definitions.
For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
~ Romans 10:3 (NKJV)
Regrettably, true Christians can also display ignorance—a second reason for hypocrisy.
2. Christians are ignorant
Please note that doesn't say "some" Christians.
Every single Christian has knowledge of some incredible truths about Jesus Christ, which make possible the faith that creates an entirely new person. Those incredible truths get us Christians pretty excited. In fact, we can sometimes latch onto one truth at the expense of other truths, or even at the expense of the most important truths.
Without balance, any truth can become error.
Example: God is love. Love does good. God's love coexists with His allowance of suffering. Without understanding both truths, Christians either expect not to suffer, or see suffering as occasion to question God's love and goodness. A balanced knowledge of God's love sees that He allows pain for our benefit. (Hebrews 12:6-11; Romans 8:18,28; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
No matter how much truth about God that we gain, we Christians remain ignorant of far more. And if we're also ignorant of our ignorance, we can start to think that the truth we do have makes us wise enough …
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion …
~ Romans 11:25 (NKJV)
… which is a third and probably most significant reason that Christians display hypocrisy.
3. Christians are incomplete
Human nature does things our own way. A Christian accepts God's ways as best. God puts in our hearts not only this understanding, but the desire and ability to do things His way.
Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me—I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is earthly and sinful. I want to do the things that are good, but I do not do them. I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do.
~ Romans 7:18-19 (NCV)
Though Christians want to do things God's way, we continue to battle against the sin that goes to the core of our hearts. The more Christians grow in knowledge and understanding and faith, the more complete we become in a new, spiritual nature—the more we become like Christ Himself.
This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him.
~ Ephesians 4:13 (CEV)
When Christians think we've already become what we're supposed to be, we cannot deny the label of hypocrite. But when we transparently admit our ignorance and imperfection, our failings and sin; when we acknowledge that we simply aspire to be like Jesus Christ; when we put the emphasis on Him rather than ourselves (or—God forbid!—on the sin of others), then we grow less and less like hypocrites.
I rely upon this: that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 1:6
No matter who you are, please have patience with Christians, who are still becoming mature in producing that spiritual fruit mentioned above. And please, beware of listening to the false Christians, who have no such fruit.
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Copyright 2013, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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