Christians are hypocrites. So what else is new?

Source: Theology That Sticks

January 21, 2016


Exposing Christian hypocrisy is one of our culture’s most beloved pastimes. The game works on several levels. For one, outing Christians as hypocrites supposedly proves their faith is phony—or, depending on who’s playing, that the faith itself is phony.

For another, it somehow validates the exposer’s own position.You’re wrong, so I’m right. For unbelievers, it might justify their own lack of faith, resentment, or sinful proclivities. But Christians can play too. Look at what some religious conservatives do with, say, Martin Luther King Jr. Or progressives do with Constantine.

Finally, and best of all, it provides cause for glee. Spot a Christian doing something sinful—especially someone of ample notoriety—and people practically dance at the news. Few joys beat proving the prejudice that Christians are somehow phony.

But feeling better about oneself by exposing someone else is the flimsiest of fig leaves. The problem is that the whole game is flawed. It assumes a disconnect between beliefs and actions is a shock, an outrage! But it’s not. It’s more like finding out people wear socks.

Pardon me while I yawn

Say believers are hypocrites and you bore with the obvious. Some are sanctimonious. Some are manipulative. Some are even mean. Most are like me, garden-variety moral losers. But can it be any other way?

Jesus tells his followers to be perfect. Ever succeed at that? Me neither. For Christians to fall short of Jesus’ standard is as normal as breathing. It doesn’t mean these people are phony—much less the faith they profess. More likely, they just struggle like everyone to clear the bar. And it’s tough being human no matter what you believe.

One response is to lower the bar. If losing one’s temper, gossiping, coveting, lusting, lying, or drinking to a stupor are suddenly acceptable behaviors, then one needn’t let them bedevil the conscience. It’s an easy thing to do. Our self-gratifying culture has a knack defining morality by convenience.

As Christians drift with the culture—something for which we have quite a knack ourselves—the larger concern is not churches full of strident but hypocritical moralists. It’s churches full of people that shrug off traditional Christian morality.

Worth doing badly

Instead of defining morality down, we should embrace the impossible standard. After all, “if a thing is worth doing,” as G.K. Chesterton said, “it is worth doing badly.” That includes the Christian life. Nobody does it perfectly, and coming up short shouldn’t stop us from struggling forward—despite vulnerability to charges of hypocrisy.


We can’t settle for badly, but we have to start someplace. Like St. Paul we press toward the mark even though we stumble. That’s what repentance is all about.

The point of Christian morality is ever-deepening communion with the Father through Christ by the power of the Spirit. And it’s a union that comes by degrees. Since God is infinite, we never fully arrive. There’s always another step in the journey.

So what if a notable believer is exposed and all the worst suspicions of cynics are proven true? It’s hardly hypothetical. It’ll probably happen next week.

If you’re one of the cynics, realize you’ve won a trophy roughly as valuable as a participation award for having lunch. If you’re a Christian, extend what grace you can, remembering that we’re all in the same boat and will have need of that very same grace in another minute or two.

That’s not to simply excuse. Some situations require a reckoning. But thankfully, the full measure of our worth is not found in our failures.

Here you can leave your comment on the present article, not exceeding 4000 characters. All comments will be read by the editors of OrthoChristian.Com.
Enter through FaceBook
Your name:
Your e-mail:
Enter the digits, seen on picture:

Characters remaining: 4000

to our mailing list

* indicates required