The Hypocrite Objection
Occasionally you’ll hear someone say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” What kind of advice is this? Well, it’s not very good advice. Someone once said that things are caught more than they are taught. It means that we tend to learn just as much, if not more, from actions than words. We become who we are largely through imitating the behaviors that we see around us. Another expression is, “Show me, don’t tell me.” Again, the sentiment being expressed is that all the words in the world may not be as informative and persuasive as an example in action.
One of the reasons that some are hesitant to become part of the Lord’s church is “because of all the hypocrites.” As is the case with most things, there is usually a bit of truth in criticism. People should be able to see change in us. We should all examine ourselves and see how we might be able to be have more consistency between our words and our deeds. Jesus Himself called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites in Matthew 23.
That being said, how might we answer this objection? I want us to consider two things. First, as the old adage says, the church is a hospital for sinners. In order for us to place our faith in Christ, we must first realize that we need Christ and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The church is not a group of people who claim to have it all together. We are a group of people who claim that we don’t have it all together. When we are baptized into Christ, our sins are forgiven. But as we grow in our faith, there will be times when we miss the mark. As John writes, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
The Christian life is a journey, and there will be times when we stumble along the way. We have each other to help us get back up. This is why we are told to “confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
Second, to those who object to the church on the grounds that it is filled with hypocrites, we should ask why they think it is wrong to be a hypocrite. This might seem like a silly question, but consider it for a moment. Where do we get the idea that being a hypocrite is bad? Ultimately, this language can be traced back to Jesus. The word hypocrite was a theater word which referred to the wearing of different masks. Jesus used the word to criticize the religious leaders of His day for living their lives as if they were on stage for all to see. So, there is a bit of irony in using the language of Jesus’ teaching in order to object to being a follower of Jesus.
Yes, there will be times when we stumble and miss the mark. But this is not a reason to stay away from the church. This is the very reason that we need the church.