This is an objection that skeptics often raise when discussing belief in God. How can I believe in Christianity when the church is full of hypocrites?
A hypocrite is an actor, a person who pretends to be something he/she isn’t. A hypocrite is someone who does not practice what they preach. The reality is, there always have been and always will be some hypocrites in the Church. But Jesus doesn’t ask us to follow others; he asks us to follow himself.
Critics of Christianity who raise the hypocrisy objection usually point to some moral failure in the lives of Christians as examples of Christianity being false or at least highly suspect. “See!” they exclaim. “There goes another hypocrite in the church! Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted throughout history or are acting today.
Christianity stands or falls on the person of Jesus, and Jesus was definitely not a hypocrite. He lived consistently with what He taught, and at the end of His life He challenged those who had lived with Him night and day, for over three years, to point out any hypocrisy in Him. (John 8:46) His disciples were silent, because there was none. Since Christianity depends on Jesus, it is incorrect to invalidate the Christian faith by pointing to inconsistencies in its adherents.
What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all!
Are all Christians hypocrites? Certainly not! In fact, the history of the Christian church is filled with examples of self-sacrifice, courage, and noble actions. These are not the acts of hypocrites, but of sincere believers transformed by the resurrected Christ to “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). We should always seek to live lives of integrity that are “above reproach” and thus remove any excuse someone may voice to reject the gospel message.
The church is a work in progress. Someday it will be complete and stand as a beautiful testimony to the power of Christ to transform lives for the better. Until the church and all followers of Christ are glorified, there will, unfortunately, be some hypocrites in the church. The reality is: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). In other words, no one is perfect and all are dependent on Christ for redemption, salvation and growth in spiritual maturity.
To summarize: First of all, whether or not Christianity is true does not depend on how its adherents behave. This, of course, does not excuse hypocrisy in the church, but neither does it mean that hypocrisy is sufficient reason to dismiss Christianity. Secondly, Christ was not a hypocrite in any sense of the word. Often even critics agree with this point, exalting the high moral standards of Christ without understanding His larger claims.
Actually, accusations of hypocrisy assume that there is a moral standard that hypocrites break. But where does this standard come from? The hypocrisy objection thus supports the reality of a transcendent, moral law, which requires a transcendent moral lawgiver, namely God himself.
(Sources: Josh McDowell, Alex McFarland)
Love you, Grandpa Larry
Note from Larry Ballard on these letters: