I have had two conversations this week with people who question what it means to be saved, because they have seen people who call themselves Christian and then continue to do things that don’t seem to be what Jesus would do. Aren’t these just hypocrites, posing to be spiritual when they really aren’t? Are these people really even saved? What does a saved person look like? Why would I want to associate with posers?
The problem with this, from an outsider perspective, is that we have a credibility problem. This credibility problem is often times used as an excuse not to be a part of a church, let alone the Christian faith. The problem with this, from an insider perspective, is that, while we are not perfect people, we should be trying to live lives that are faithful to the witness we profess.
We live in a world that has been recently bombarded by allegations against politicians, movie moguls, and popular journalists not living lives that are congruent with their status, position of power, or influence, and with disgust, we cast them along the curbside as the dregs of society. It’s this incongruence issue that is troubling to us … we trust these people, they make more money than we do, and we give them the time of day only to be duped to find out that they are no better … in fact, a whole lot worse than we are. When this incongruence issue is applied to our Christian experience, then we have a real problem when our witness does not resemble our claim of being saved. Some of the research done tells us that the choices, attitudes, and actions of believers aren’t that much difference than those who do not make a claim of any kind of faith experience. That’s unsettling!
Jesus dealt with these situations a lot with the religious leaders of his day. These were the elite … first string pastors, if you will. They were well respected in the community, and yet, Jesus called them out because He didn’t like the show they were putting on in front of others. Full of pride, greed, and self indulgence, Jesus called them “snakes, a brood of vipers,” and of course the word we so often here in reference to this discussion, “hypocrites.” Let’s be brutally honest, if you have problem with hypocrites, then you are in good company … Jesus had trouble with them, too.
In Matthew 7:21-23, he says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” Can I tell you that this verse has always haunted me in a way, because I haven’t cast out any demons and haven’t performed too many miracles and if they don’t get into heaven, how in the world will I? Well, it’s not about that, is it? It’s not about our performance on the outside, but our performance on the inside that counts … and, in His own words, “doing the will of [His] Father who is in heaven.”
So plainly, Jesus had a problem with hypocrites. Those of us who are believers in Christ should be living a life of example, “walk our talk,” and not put on the cosmetics of Christianity simply to cover up the blemishes of our daily journey.
On the other hand, if you are one who always looks at believers and points out their flaws and labels them as hypocrites, then let me remind you that there is only one Perfect One, Jesus, who “understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet had no sin.” We all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 tells us. And if we do not admit that, then we are probably already consumed with the sin of pride.
So, you don’t want to go to church because there are hypocrites there? You stay away from living a life of faith because there are people who call themselves Christians and don’t seem to match up to your standards of what a Christian looks like? With that in mind, this is what I want to tell my friends who constantly look at others (including people who call themselves Christian) to determine their own level of Christian faith indoctrination: don’t look at me, look at Him! I’m not your example of a perfect individual. Only Jesus is. I am flawed. I’m still on the journey with my life with Christ. While I have been forgiven and saved, I still deal with every day’s problems–ones that I give to Him every single day.
Why would you put your entire faith context in what my life is all about … put it in what Christ’s life is all about. That doesn’t get me off the hook for doing all I can in obedience to Christ, but why would you want to put your spiritual life and eternity in anyone else’s hands but Christ’s? I still struggle and the Spirit of God is still renewing me day by day as I take up my cross daily and follow Him. I certainly do not need to act like I have it all together because I don’t. That is simply prideful living. Being saved means that I am not a slave to my sin and that I have the power to overcome it, but it is not because of me or anything I have done or can do–it is Christ in me and according to what He has done. So when you look at it that way, perhaps the church isn’t as full as hypocrites, but of people who are just like me–trying to work out my salvation day by day. Whatever the case, we should never use someone else’s spiritual experience as our only guide to faith. While people can encourage us and even discourage us from the faith, the only one we follow is Christ.
So while I will try not to be a hypocrite, don’t look at me … look at Him. Let Christ be the firm foundation and the full context of your Christian faith.