People don’t like Christians because they say they are one thing and then act like another. They are hypocrites. They say they are good people, but then act no different than everyone else. This is a valid concern. A concern that causes some people to not attend church at all. I don’t want to be with those hypocrites. That’s a fair concern so let’s look at the problem.
What do we claim to be?
We claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, church members, new creations, born again, and believers.
We claim to follow God’s way, read His bible, pray, and love our neighbor as our selves.
We claim to be different. A new creation, someone in the process of change, who doesn’t look quite like everyone else.
Before Christ we acted according to our heart. Galatians 5:19-21 explains now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies and things like these. The thing is people still see us do these things. We know that we do some of these things. So maybe we are hypocrites, but let’s look at this a little more.
Christians sin. It is not a secret. We aren’t saved and made perfect, but there is a difference. A true Christian is a person in a state of change. At some point God convicts them of their sin. So when we envy, have fits of anger, idolize anything, cause divisions, live in drunkenness, or participate in orgies we will at some point be convicted. We will feel guilty about it. Something inside of us will give us a feeling or idea that we shouldn’t have done this or shouldn’t do this. When we succumb to that still small voice we will stop the behavior that displeases God and figure out how to please Him.
Anyone can feel like they did something wrong. It’s not particularly special to Christians, but our lives should be flavored by the fact that when we do wrong we get with God and deal with that behavior. We stop what we are doing and figure out how to live a new way. Perhaps one of the hallmarks of being a Christian is the practice of asking for forgiveness. The practice of going to people and admitting a wrong, asking for forgiveness, and then striving not to do that thing again. When people see a changed life they know we are the real deal. When we go to others and ask forgiveness they begin to wonder what is different about us. When they see that we are constantly trying to stop doing things they know we shouldn’t do they may realize we are what we say we are.
Galatians 5:22-23 tell us that true Christians have the fruit of the Spirit and that Spirit includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control and against these things there is no law.
When I was saved some of my behavior changed immediately. I no longer desired to have sex with strangers, get drunk on a daily basis, and live a very out of control life. I stopped doing those things, but the rest has been an 18 year work in progress. As a new Christian I knew nothing about loving my husband, being a godly mother, putting off sin and putting on Christ like living. My first reaction was to start going to church faithfully and at home I began to read the Scriptures faithfully and spent a lot of time in prayer. Consistent bible reading and serious prayer utterly changed my life and spiked a period of growth I haven’t had since.
“Whoever says I know Him but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly, the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him; ought to walk in the same way in which He walked” 1 John 2-4
What is the real problem?
God calls people liars who calls themselves believers, but do not follow His Word. He doesn’t expect them to follow perfectly, but there should be a pattern of consistency. Of striving to put off bad behavior and put on behavior that pleases Him. When the Holy Spirit awakens us to the fact that we are off course He expects us to do something about that. We may need help to overcome a lot of sin and that’s okay. God wants to see us in the process of trying. If we don’t follow His Word and never feel convicted to change our ways then the problem may be that we aren’t who we say we are. Church attendance doesn’t signify a changed life. It signifies faithfulness to attend a church service. It only has power when it is combined with a changed life.
Perhaps people don’t see a difference in us. Perhaps they don’t understand that we will still sin. Maybe they expect to see a changed life and don’t. They can’t figure out why someone who goes to church all the time doesn’t stop beating their spouse, kicking the dog, going to the bar and getting drunk, or quitting that drug habit. Perhaps they don’t see love and are pretty sure we are supposed to have a little of that. Maybe if we thought of others more than ourselves we would go out of our way to make a difference in their lives. We would be quick to admit wrongs and ask forgiveness. We would demonstrate our desire to be more like Christ and rush to change our behavior. We would be known as that person that changes and our changed life would be the tell tale sign that we were indeed what we said we were.
The church is full of sinners. Saved sinners keep on sinning, but they do so less and less. It’s why church is such a messed up place. It’s why everyone struggles to get it right. Church is the perfect place for sinners to be. It is the place where their hypocrisy can be destroyed. Where they can be confronted with the truth of their behavior and be given the tools to turn from that and turn to God. God using and working through some very messed up people is what makes Him so wonderful. Christ in us is where no hypocrisy lies. Let us trust that He will one day make us whole and put to death all possibility of straying from His will and way.