“The church is full of hypocrites.” If I had to guess, this would probably be the most common excuse for not attending church and writing off those who claim a relationship with Christ as irrelevant. How can Christians be relevant to society if they live hypocritical lives? This brings two questions to mind – What is a hypocrite? How can I keep from being one?
Webster defines hypocrite as “1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion 2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” It comes from the Greek hypokritēs meaning actor. Thus a hypocrite is an actor, someone who pretends. Hypocrites are those that can talk a good game, but have nothing to back it up. And for a majority of society to believe that the church at large is full of hypocrites, there must be a thread of truth to the notion. 85% of Americans claim that they are “Christians” and yet our society certainly does not reflect a true notion of biblical ethics. Consider the rate of divorce, abortion, and the openly gay lifestyle. These are widely accepted as “normal” and a representation of how advanced and progressive our culture is. Yet all of these things are contrary to what is taught in Scripture.
As a professor friend of mine tells her students, “people will believe your actions over your words …” To avoid being labeled as a hypocrite we have to live out our beliefs intentionally. Integrity can be defined as being the same when people are around and when you’re alone; being undivided in your thoughts and actions. Those who profess a relationship with Christ must be intentional in our integrity. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:37 “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’…” If we are truly “a letter from Christ, … written not with ink … on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3 NIV) then we must honestly represent the complete gospel of Christ, the gospel of the Kingdom of God, when it is easy and when we may look foolish.
In the US we have the privilege of religious freedom. The Bill of Rights guarantees that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” That is the first amendment to our Constitution. This is not true worldwide. In fact statistics say that there are an estimated 171,000 people martyred for the Christian faith every year. What would your faith look like if you had to worry if it would kill you rather than whether or not you would still have your reputation. King David said “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes…” (2 Samuel 6:22)
So the choice is yours. Prove to society that you are a stereotypical American “Christian” who professes faith but does not live it. Or count the cost and be intentional in your integrity and live a life worthy of Christ who died that you may live.