It’s the oldest accusation, debate and mud to sling in the Book of Reasons Why Not to Be a Christian.
We’re all hypocrites.
My response? Um, yeah. We’re aware. And?
The key to this standby of the anti-Christian is that they are 100 percent right! We all “have two sides.”
Recently I came across a Facebook conversation where one non-believer pulled out the old “hypocrisy” card, typical of nearly all online confrontations between Christians and non-Christians. What he didn’t realize, perhaps, is that this is scripturally very true. We are all made up of two warring desires, the sinful flesh (selfishness, “whatever-feels-good,” pride, jealousy, anger, etc.) and the imago dei spirit (the “God-shaped-hole,” humbleness, neighborly love, desire for peace, etc.)
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
– Galatians 5:16-18
This is usually most obvious in our leaders who are in the public eye. This particular Facebook commenter drew a crucial parallel – how were the leaders who “got burned out” or “fell” publicly in some way living their private lives outside of their platform? Did they follow their own teachings in their daily lives? Did they practice what they preach?
The mark of faith is the fruit it produces, so that’s definitely one way to root out who is a biblical teacher and who is just putting up a front (John 15:4-5). But that’s just it, isn’t it? We preach a Gospel of holiness and sanctification. It’s a lifelong process, a journey we never complete unto death (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Sure there is a world of difference between those who sincerely work out their faith and those who are just putting on the mask of false Christianity, but no one is perfect. No one, that is, except the God we worship (Romans 3:22-24). Which is why, try as we might, we will never be able to fully hold up our own lives as the model everyone should follow.
Paul spoke openly of his own imperfection and trials, yet told the people of Philippi to be like him in trusting God for provision and strength (Philippians 4:4-19).
All have fallen short of the glory of God. Every one of us. Even the musician who leads us into emotion-stirring worship. Even the passionate evangelist. Even the most caring pastor. Even the grace-filed prayer warrior. Even the youth minister with enough energy and patience to reach teenagers every day. Even the smallest giggling child and the wisest elder.
“The preacher is the one that brings the church together,” this Facebook comment said. “If the preacher can’t pull himself through his own teachings there is something else wrong there.”
Yes, we call that wrong our human sin nature. The truth is, no leader will never be able to “pull himself through.” We were never created to! We are created to depend on God with every strength and every weakness given us. We are called into child-like obedience and dependence on our heavenly Father. The same Father that sent His Son to die on our behalf, because there was “something else wrong there.” Sin.
Are we hypocrites? On our own: always. With His grace and forgiveness: not anymore. He has wiped the slate clean, given us new mercies each morning and grace for the new day. He no longer sees our mistakes, inability to measure up or failure to practice what we preach.
Out of that overwhelming, miraculous, incomprehensible love, we can live a life we never deserved. We can lead out of a place of fulfillment, knowing that in our weakness He is strong. Where we can never model perfection, He stands pure.
If we look to any human leader for that, we will always be disappointed. The preacher is not the “one who brings the church together.” Jesus is. Our Bridegroom, our Head, our Intercessor, our Advocate, our Friend. He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Quite the opposite of hypocrisy, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.