There are many reasons cited as to why one rejects Christianity.
- Religion is responsible for many wars.
- There is no god.
- Science explains everything.
- There’s no proof that Jesus ever existed.
- If God is loving, why is there so much suffering in the world?
The above list is just a sample. There is one reason given that is quite common and also quite wrong. People say that the church is full of hypocrites.
Does the church have hypocrites? Sure. But it’s not full of them. What the church is full of is absolutely flawed people. In fact, they all are. There are no perfect people in Christianity and to expect that is lunacy.
When people say the church is full of hypocrites, what they mean is the church is full of people who don’t live according to the teachings of Christianity. They lie, cheat, get drunk, are mean, selfish, and so on. And they are right. The church is replete with these people. But they aren’t hypocrites. They’re sinners.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines a hypocrite as one who falsely professes to be virtuously or religiously inclined; one who pretends to have feelings or beliefs of a higher order than his real ones; a pretender.
Another way of defining a hypocrite is one who believes one thing but fakes believing something else. Lets say you don’t believe that you should give money to the church but you pretend you do give money or make others believe that you do, you’re a hypocrite.
All hypocrites are liars, but not all liars are hypocrites.
But if you do believe you should give money to the church but you don’t, you’re not a hypocrite. You’re flawed. You’re not faking anything. You’re just not doing what you believe you should do. And the church is full of them.
I believe I shouldn’t lie. Guilty. I believe I shouldn’t have impure thoughts. Guilty. I believe I shouldn’t think ill of others. Guilty.
Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! But I am not a hypocrite. In Christian parlance, I am a sinner. I believe certain behaviours are wrong, I try not to do them, but I sometimes fail.
That’s what the church is full of: people who are trying to do the best they can to live up to what they believe is right. The standards are high, and worth striving for, but difficult to attain.
I don’t know any hypocrites. Let me rephrase. I don’t know if any of the people in my church are hypocrites. They are hard to identify. You don’t really know what someone believes. They can tell you and you can take them at their word, or you can watch their behaviour and see if it lines up with what they say, but you’re still making an educated guess.
People will believe whatever they want. I just hope that when they make their decision, they do it wisely, having carefully considered the information they have, including using terms correctly.
Eternity is at stake.