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Hypocrites in the Church?

March 6th, 2012 by Sergio Gonzalez

Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:5

I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ. – Mahatma Gandhi

 

If you search the web for why some people hate Christianity, you’ll see one word pop up very frequently: hypocrisy. You will find a staggering amount of angry comments directed at “Christian hypocrites.” For the most part, people tend not to have a negative reaction to the teachings of Christ but, rather, to His followers’ inability to fully embrace His teachings. This is interesting because many of the teachings that many of us apparently fail to follow are contained within the Sermon on the Mount: a sermon we have been studying for quite a few weeks on Cross Connection. Mahatma Gandhi regularly referred to the Sermon on the Mount as one of the most powerful teachings he had ever encountered. Even so, he was not a Christian. He summed up why with a comment he wrote to a Christian friend: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.” Is this criticism accurate? How many of us fail to live up to the teachings of Christ? Does the mere act of labeling ourselves as Christians while not doing the will of our Father in heaven make us hypocrites?

In our study of Matthew 7:1 – 12, we find the first example of Jesus calling his own followers hypocrites (Matt. 7:5). Remember, the Sermon on the Mount was directed at His followers, not the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus was speaking to the earliest members of the Christian church. After all these years, is our church still full of hypocrites? I must admit that it’s very tempting to dive into that question head on. It would be very easy. But Jesus called me to do something much more difficult: take a look in the mirror. Why do I have such an easy time seeing the flaws in others but have such a hard time looking honestly at all of my many faults? It’s nice to think about how I’m better than other people because I do this or don’t do that. Except that’s not true. Speaking in that same passage (again, to His followers) Jesus said “you then, being evil…” (Matt. 7:11). Not exactly a glowing endorsement of my nature. There are so many ways in which I fall short of doing the things that Jesus asked me to do. But I’m trying. I even succeed in doing many of the things he asked. But not all of them, at least not all the time.

So are we hypocrites? I can’t speak for anyone else. But I can say that yes, sometimes I am. But I’m trying. Every day is a battle to make sure I become “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3) and give myself up to God. Thankfully, Jesus understood this battle and said that we need only to ask and it will be given to us. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds…” (Matt. 7:8).

Perhaps I’ve been avoiding a key question: are there hypocrites in our church? I’ll let the famous evangelist Billy Sunday answer that question:

Hypocrites in the Church? Yes, and in the lodge and at the home. Don’t hunt through the Church for a hypocrite. Go home and look in the mirror. Hypocrites? Yes. See that you make the number one less.

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