One of the most often cited reasons for steering away from Christianity: we’re just a bunch of hypocrites!
Eighty-five percent of young outsiders have had sufficient exposure to Christians and churches that they conclude present-day Christianity is hypocritical.1
The research seems to suggest that Busters and Mosaics agree that Christians are hypocrites, but they don’t really care because, it seems, everyone is a hypocrite! It’s all about getting ahead in the world, preserving your image, looking like people expect, so apparently, it’s a new normal. What a horrible worldview! Not only does this generation consider inflating resumes as normal, it lumps Christ followers in the same group. We have a lot of work to do indeed!
In Matthew 23, Jesus was very critical of the religious elite, the Pharisees, Sadducees and Teachers of the Law. That’s the last group of people I want to be identified with.
The Outside world sees us as no different than anyone else…we have nothing to distinguish us from non-Christians. It’s one thing to be transparent, to confess we are all sinners. It’s an entirely different thing to behave like those who have not been transformed by the Holy Spirit. If our attempt was to fit into society, we’ve accomplished that a bit too well.
What’s the Message?
When asked to identify the most important priorities for the Christian faith, most essentially answered, “being good, doing the right thing, not sinning.”
The evidence that born-again Christians prioritize “avoiding sin” is compelling. First, realize that most Americans believe you can earn a place in heaven if you do enough good things for others or if you are a decent person. One-third of the people who qualify as born-again Christians embrace this idea as well. 2
While it’s not wrong to want these things, this isn’t what Jesus called us to do. We should be taking up our cross daily, diving into the Bible, learning the principles and living them out. As a result, we would naturally do good things. That’s very different than doing good things first…as if we could earn salvation. Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel destroys this misconception: it’s all about the costly grace of Jesus Christ.
Kinnaman quotes Philip Yancy’s book, What’s So Amazing About Grace, to say that Jesus preferred to spend time around sinners because they had no pretense. Those who claimed to be so righteous we not interested in hearing what He had to say. They knew it all.
What if Outsiders are Right?
After re-reading this chapter, I simply have to ask the question: What if outsiders are right? We if we are the hypocritical, non-transparent, two-faced, self-righteous, bigots they’ve come to expect? It’s no wonder they have little interest in hearing the Gospel. They are right when most wear the badge of Christian on Sunday, actually just a few hours on Sunday, then quickly put it back in the drawer for another week. They’re right when we avert our eyes from homeless families or those who are in the deadly spiral of poverty and simply say, “we’ll pray for you!” I wish I weren’t guilty of fitting into their definition, but I am guilty to at least some degree.
Lord, help us to move away from the comforts this country has to offer and go into the world proclaiming your grace. Help us to work harder than anyone else, as if we were working for you (Colossians 3:23), to be a positive example. Show us how. When we get together on Sundays, let these be days when we share stories of how you honored these prayers throughout the week, how You helped us overcome the trials and temptations. Teach us to throw away the masks of hypocrisy. I want to be more like You, Lord. That may make me look like a radical, but certainly not a hypocrite.
1 Kinnaman, David; Lyons, Gabe (2007-10-01). unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity…and Why It Matters (p. 42). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
2 ibid, p. 50