Without question, one of the principal stumbling blocks the world has when it comes to the Christian faith has to do with Christians themselves, and specifically the question of hypocrisy.
And rightfully so.
The word hypocrite is taken from an old Greek work that refers to the wearing of a mask. In ancient Greece, actors often wore masks according to the character they played. Their character’s appearance on the stage was a façade, an ‘act.’ Hypocrites, then, are mask-wearers. They appear to be one thing, but it’s all a front – behind the mask they are someone else.
The only way this will be addressed is if Christians themselves get a grip on what it mean to follow Christ, and then convey that authentically to the world. What is behind many – not all, but many – charges and accusations against the character and integrity of Christians is the demand for perfection in the life of anyone who claims to be a Christian and urges others to consider Christianity as well. This is not, of course, the true meaning of hypocrite, but even more to the point, it is not an accurate understanding of what it means to enter into the Christian life.
Yet the world holds us to it, because we hold ourselves – and others – to it. We fall prey to the charge of hypocrisy because we have reduced spirituality to a list of moral benchmarks coupled with a good dose of judgmentalism.
The only way to regain our footing is to remind ourselves – and others – that an authentic Christian is simply someone who has made the decision to believe in Jesus as his forgiver and then attempt to follow him as his leader. But nowhere in this series of events is perfection or sinlessness. Rather, there is simply the intentional effort and sincere desire to recognize God as, well, God.
And then we must convey that to the world. Authentically, I am reminded of the words of the great nineteenth-century Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, who wrote in a personal letter,
“Attack me, I do this myself, but attack me rather than the path I follow and which I point out to anyone who asks me where I think it lies. If I know the way home and am walking along it drunkenly, is it any less the right way because I am staggering from side to side!”
Simply put, we must stop presenting ourselves as the message and begin presenting Jesus as the message. There will be disappointment with Christians as long as there are imperfect people. Since all Christians are imperfect, there will always be disappointment. So we must stop having the message of Christ tied to our butchered efforts.
Quote from Unchristian by David Kinnaman and Fermi Project (Baker Books, 2007) pg. 65-66
Original title as ‘Reducing Spirituality to Moral Benchmarks’
THINK BIG. START SMALL. GO DEEP.