Does Hypocrisy Invalidate Christianity?
Contemporary Christianity, as far as many Americans are concerned, is rife with hypocrisy. If anyone says otherwise their statement would be patently false. The tragic truth is irrefutable - the Christian church is burgeoning with people who say one thing, but do another. Duplicitous living by those who identify as followers of Christ has done irreversible and devastating damage toward the cause of the Great Commission. The destruction has been all the
more intensified by clergy constantly exposed as living a twofaced life. Such inconsistencies are not only a current problem, but many misdeeds have been done throughout history in the name of Christ, such as the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisitions and the Salem witch trials, that have surely blighted Christianity.
The credibility of Jesus has been called into question by His namesake’s religion. Hypocrisy is among the worst stumbling blocks to hinder people from coming to Christ. Dwight L. Moody once stated, “Out of one hundred men, one will read the Bible, the other ninety-nine will read the Christian.” Falsifying the faith by a perjurious lifestyle raises honest objections by the secular world. The claim of transformative salvation is undermined by actions that are counterintuitive to this assertion. But what exactly is hypocrisy, and are those who identify themselves as Christians bearing the moniker honestly?
Jesus loathed the actions of hypocrites and frequently identified both the violator and their behavior. He called hypocrites “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15), “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27), “snakes,” and “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33). With that said, it is important to see how Jesus defined hypocrisy. His indictment was directed toward people who claimed to be followers of God, yet lived decidedly as though they were unbelievers. These people were characterized as living both continually and unapologetically in their wrong behavior. This definition highlights the repetitive and intentional actions of a person. This distinction is addressed in I John 3:8, 9 with the words “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil,” and “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning.” Simply said, unbelievers and hypocrites are placed in the same category because they are the same thing – nonbelievers.
Now, we quickly acknowledge that an authentic Christian is not perfect, and never will be. Every believer will act in ways that are morally contradictory to the Christian ethic. But personally inappropriate behavior will be disdainful to the wrongdoer, and it certainly will not be a lifestyle. Failing God hurts the Christian, leaving the person with remorse that brings about repentance. This is not hypocrisy. It is fallen humanity, and the Christian strives to be Christlike despite their battles with old habits and unholy desires.
The unbelieving world is decisively belligerent towards Christianity. Because the Christian ethical code is an extremely high and its unbiased standard transcends individual opinion, any misstep by the believer becomes subject to exaggerated judgments. Christian mistakes are more scrutinized given the objectively faultless and public nature of the biblical standard. Yet, unbelievers who criticize Christians for moral failure typically do so in order to deflect the truth concerning their own ungodly heart. While many may identify as “Christian”, the genuine follower of Christ cannot be a hypocrite, according to biblical definition. They may struggle with ongoing vice, but they refuse to be dominated by their weaknesses, and certainly express an attitude toward sin that is consistent with a changed heart.