The Church is Full of Hypocrites!

After talking with a couple of people (my “little” from Big Brothers Big Sisters being one of them) about what they think about the church and why they don’t go I keep getting hit with the saying, “The church is full of hypocrites.”

Here is a perfect example of what hypocrisy is and isn’t as written on Wikipedia’s website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypocrite)

“For example, a doctor who smokes yet advises a patient that smoking is dangerous to one’s health is not incorrect in this advice merely because the doctor also smokes. Also, a doctor who truly believes smoking is dangerous yet smokes is not a hypocrite simply because he/she practices dangerous behavior. Instead, to accurately label as hypocrite a doctor who advises patients that smoking is dangerous, the doctor would have to actually believe smoking is not dangerous yet in front of others pretend to believe the opposite, regardless of whether the doctor also smokes.”

Using this understanding of hypocrisy I do not see this happening in abundance in local churches.  The preacher would have to be telling people that homosexuality is wrong yet in his own heart and mind be convinced that it is not.  Whether he is engaged in homosexual behavior is secondary to what he thinks verses what he says.   Hypocrisy is not the right word to use in describing how people view those who make up the body of believers in a church who are not living by the standards that are preached or taught.  Instead, it needs to be shown in a different light what is happening, and I will try to do that here.

Since I have NOT read a lot of writings on this I am going to go with the one that I am familiar with, C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.  Within the hypocrite argument is the presupposition that everyone should be “neatly divided into two camps-Christian and non-Christian- and that all the people in the first camp at any given moment should be obviously nicer than all the people in the second”, according to Lewis.

He argues that this is invalid on several accounts:

1.  The world is more complicated than that.  There is no 100 percent to any person.  He writes, “When we are comparing Christians in general with non-Christians in general, we are usually not thinking about real people whom we know at all, but only about two vague ideas…If you want to compare the bad Christian and the good Atheist, you must think about two real specimens whom you have actually met.”

2.  Lets say you have come up with two different people, then you now have to ask the right question.  You cannot say, “Joe Blow, the atheist, is a nicer person than Jim Rich, the Christian, so Christianity is false.”  You have to ask yourself, “If Jim Rich were not a Christian then would he be worse off than he is now?”  Lewis argues that if Christianity is true then two things should show, “(a) That any Christian will be nicer than the same person would be if he were not a Christian, (b) That any man who becomes a Christian will be nicer than he was before.”

3.  Going further, if we stay with this line of reasoning then we think of Christianity as something that nasty people need and nice people can do without.  Lewis states, “The truth is that in God’s eyes Dick Firkin needs ‘saving’ every bit as much as Miss Bates.”  God is at work in both of their lives waiting for one critical thing to happen.  Regardless of how nice a person is in their own eyes or the eyes of others, God wants their free will.  God doesn’t care about whether they are nasty or nice because He can work that out, but only if they surrender.

Ephesians 2:10 reads, “For we are His creation-created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them”  James 1:17 says, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.” (HCSB)  For the Christian we believe that even the “niceness” of the unbeliever is from God, the same as our faith is solely from God.

Finally, Lewis notes: “We must, therefore, not be surprised if we find among the Christians some people who are still nasty.”  The reasoning for this is almost easy to understand.  Jesus reached out to the “nasty” people of His day and this continues to be the case to this day.  The gospel message is easier to receive when you can see your “nastiness” clearly.  The “nice” people seemingly have no need of a Messiah to save them from anything.  So the answer to the main rebuttal against going to church is that the people are not hypocrites.  They are nasty people who are learning how to be better.  It is not hypocrisy, it is hope.  If they can go and God will have them then I know I can be accepted as I am too.

These last two quotes come at the end of the chapter that I got most of this material for.  Lewis writes, “There is either a warning or an encouragement here for every one of us.  If you are a nice person-if virtue comes easily to you-beware!  Much is expected from those to whom much is given.”

“One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands.  If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him.  You cannot put Him off with speculations about your next door neighbours or memories of what you have read in books.  What will all that chatter and hearsay count (will you even be able to remember it?) when the anaesthetic fog which we call ‘nature’ or ‘the real world’ fades away and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, and unavoidable?”

Thanks for reading,

Keith, Daddy Moose

Mere Christianity. 1952. HarperCollins Publisher (New York).  The quotations and ideas mainly came from Book 4, Chapter 10 “Nice People or New Men”, pages 207-217

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8 thoughts on “The Church is Full of Hypocrites!

  1. Ma K says:

    Interesting points on what hypocrisy is and what it isn’t. I never thought about it that way before. I do agree that the main issue is surrendering our wills to God. If salvation were just about being nice, then anyone could get into heaven by good works. That is not at all what scripture teaches. I LOVE the argument that the church isn’t necessarily full of hypocrites, but “they are nasty people who are learning how to be better. It is not hypocrisy, it is hope. If they can go and God will have them then I know I can be accepted as I am too.” That is called God’s GRACE and MERCY. We can’t earn them–they are His gifts to us when we surrender our wills and lives to Him through His Son. Thanks for giving me food for thought!

    • daddymoose says:

      I still don’t have the willful surrender down. My next posting will deal with this a little more (I think). Heather said you wondered my thoughts on the message this past Sunday. I appreciate his passion but I disagree with him to an extent. Hebrews chapter 6 has to be dealt with before I will listen to someone preach on the passage in John that he talked about. While I do agree that nobody can pluck me from Christ hold on my life, I do not believe that the nobody Jesus was talking about referred to the individual believer. I cannot remove Jesus’ hold from me but I can tell Jesus that I no longer believe in Him and He will have no choice but to remove His hold. Otherwise it would violate His nature and over-ride my freewill. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether there is eternal security or not. I guess it is nice to believe in eternal security but live as though there isn’t. That is about the closest I get to believing in eternal security. I don’t believe in working my way to heaven but if I say I believe in eternal security then I am in essence believing in Jesus. If I believe in Jesus then I will be obeying what He commands. If I obey what He commands then what do I need to worried about eternal security for? Anyways. It is time for bed. Constance went down early so I am going to try and get a few extra minutes of sleep.

      Daddy Moose

      • Ma K says:

        I don’t know if I totally buy into “once saved always saved” either, but I thought the pastor presented a well thought out argument of characteristics of God’s sheep once they come to Christ. I hope it caused many people to pause and think about what he said, and make them rethink their “salvation” in case they didn’t meet the criteria of being true sheep!

        Love,
        Ma K

      • daddymoose says:

        I don’t remember specifics right now but I agree that some of his points hit home. Am I listening to the shepherd’s voice? I remember thinking that it is so hard to know how to apply the general statements that we can sometimes get from the pulpit. It truly is about an on-going relationship with God, being filled with the Spirit, and pleading the work of Christ over our lives as our redemption. If I can remember to talk to God throughout my day (which I do better at sometimes than others) then life will be that much easier (because I won’t be going at it alone on my false power and control).

        Keith

  2. Papa D says:

    Yo Daddy Moose.

    I think there is a distinction between hypocrisy, ethics, and moral behavior. Church would probably be great if it weren’t for the people….. I think the statement “I don’t go to church because it is full of hypocrites” is just a crock. I have no other reason for going but this is as good as I can come with and everyone can relate to it in some capacity.

    Is it hypocritical to attack small children, when they are the most vulnerable, bribe them with bus rides, games, contest, prizes, and food all in the name of “getting them saved”, and then turning them over to the world. Is that hypocritical or unethical?

    The following words, although not my own, seem to sum it up a little better. No one can fairly disburse the accusation of hypocrite and not look at themselves as one too. There are many who say I don’t want to be a Christian because all the hypocrites go to Church. (“It’s nice to know that God has rounded up all the hypocrites and put them in church buildings — at least on Sunday mornings — so that all the people in the world who have pristine motives and clear consciences don’t have to put up with them.” (John Roberts)

    This in itself shows that they are even more of a hypocrite then those they criticize. Businesses are full of Hypocrites but the same person who sees an opportunity to make money doesn’t have this stop them do business with these people. People see married couples have their spouses cheat on them, but that doesn’t stop that same person from getting married or staying a confirmed bachelor. TV is filled with hypocrites, liars and cheats. Most of the talk shows glamorize them, but they will still watch TV. Advertisements are hypocritical but they don’t stop buying the products because of it. Some used car salesman can certainly fit the bill for this category yet no one will stop buying cars because of their intense sales rap. Politicians are some great examples of hypocrisy but we still vote hoping the one we choose will be honest and keep his promises. Examples are not lacking to show the illogic of all this. Hell is filled with hypocrites and those who complain about hypocrisy won’t do a thing to keep themselves from going there and joining them. Job 27:8 “For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?”

    The biggest hypocrite is one who wants us to think he is trying to avoid others who he calls hypocrites but are just like he is. True the church does have its share of hypocrites, but in reality it has a whole lot less than anywhere else. Overall they are at least honest about their shortcomings and admit they are sinners, while others won’t. They are at least open and trying to reform. The only step one can make from their own hypocrisy is to admit, they like everyone else are not perfect and need the forgiveness the Christ offers. Then they can have the assurance of heaven instead of hell. The fact is there are hypocrites in all walks of life besides religions. If you let a few hypocrites stop you from becoming a Christian you may well end up spending all eternity with them. The Church never claimed to be perfect and if you find the perfect church you may not want to join it, because you may ruin it by your hypocrisy. At least be honest in assessing yourself as you do others.

    PapaD

    • daddymoose says:

      Hey Papa D,

      I feel your vibe that you are laying down. I will have to remember some of what you wrote for when people tell me about hypocrites being in the church. I never looked at it from the standpoint that their are people everywhere who tell us one thing but believe that what they are telling us is not the truth and live their life against what they are talking about. Politics is probably the biggest place that we see this. Spot on with you there.

      Well, I am beat and need to sleep. Thanks for posting.

      Daddy Moose

  3. Debra says:

    Keith, someone once told me that a church is kind of like a hospital. You go to the hospital to get well when you are sick….
    Therefore, even though there are hypocrites, whited sepulchres, false people in church, isn’t this where they need to be to get the help they need???

    • daddymoose says:

      That was the entire premise behind what I was writing. I am defending the right of anyone of any walk in life to step foot inside a church because that is where they can get the support, help, encouragement, conviction, and freedom that they need. The title is in quotations because that is what people keep telling me is their reason for not going to church.

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