A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

Hypocrisy among Christians is a serious issue. At minimum, it’s a huge turnoff for believers and unbelievers alike. In situations where people are actually victimized by it, hypocrisy can comprise a justifiable reason to rethink or reject the truth of Christianity. In either case, hypocrisy among those who claim to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is always regrettable.

The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek hypokritḗs which means “an actor.” In other words, the root of the word describes a person who plays a “stage role.” It is a person pretending to be something they’re not. From this definition, when it comes to the Christian faith, I see hypocrisy as taking two fundamentally different forms. Both are different in nature and in effect.

Lowercase “h” Hypocrisy

In this type of hypocrisy, I don’t mean to imply that this form of behavioral inconsistency is not troublesome. It surely is. Here I’m referring to the common situation of a genuine Christian who, like all believers, struggles with various aspects of living the Christian life. Sanctification (moral transformation into the image of Christ) is a long, challenging process in which selfishness and pride die hard. A person doesn’t know how bad (selfish) they are until they try hard to be good (selfless). So all Christians are hypocrites as defined with a lowercase h.

A careful reading of Scripture and everyday experience tell us that no believer loves God and neighbor perfectly in this life. That is why we need a Savior whose grace keeps on cleansing us of our sins (1 John 1:8-10). What Christians need in this case of hypocrisy is a devotion to the lifelong practice of regular confession, repentance, reliance upon God’s Word, and an abiding awareness that God’s grace continues to forgive us in Christ (1 John 1:9). In relating to others, it may involve asking people for forgiveness and attempting to make things right when we transgress. However, sometimes behavioral problems can be severe enough to require special intervention in the form of greater accountability through pastoral counseling or psychological therapy.

Capital “H” Hypocrisy

The rarer, more serious hypocrisy (with a capital “H”) is where a person leads a double life. He or she is pretending to play a moral and spiritual role. Such people’s actions are brazenly inconsistent with their Christian morals and faith profession. That person also lacks signs of any genuine repentance from sin. Though all human hearts are broken by sin and sometimes hard to precisely diagnose, in this instance the person may not be a believer in Christ at all. In such cases the church must take the necessary steps to confront the situation and possibly remove the person from the church. If criminal activity is involved, then the perpetrator should be held legally accountable (for example, as in the case of sexual abuse). Moreover, the church should also seek ways to help anyone who has been victimized by people who have led double lives.

Disappointment with the Church

Let me also offer a three-part personal message to anyone who has been deeply disappointed by other Christians or by leaders of churches they have attended. First, the triune God of historic Christianity loves you and has forgiven all your sins in Christ (Titus 3:4–7). Second, Christian people may have deeply hurt and disappointed you, but our Lord will not. God’s grace and providential care will meet all your needs. Third, don’t give up on the Lord because his representatives are still broken and flawed or, in some extreme cases, are not even believers.

If you’ve been hurt by Christian people, then you might want to talk with a skilled, trusted pastor or counselor and work through the pain and sorrow. Everyone at one time or another needs help and guidance from a competent, qualified, and trusted Christian professional. You might also discover that the warmth and care you receive from your brothers and sisters in Christ can help soften and heal the past offenses and hurt.

To summarize, hypocrisy can be a huge turnoff and each of us would do well to avoid it. However, a Christian who by God’s grace seeks to live a life of love, truth, accountability, and courage—even while battling their own imperfections—can be a powerfully attractive force for the historic Christian faith.

Reflections: Your Turn

As a Christian, how do you address your own challenges with hypocrisy? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Check out more from Reasons to Believe @Reasons.org

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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