How Self-Proclaimed Two-Faced Hypocrites are a Credit to Christianity

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One of the most bothersome and refreshing things about the Bible is all the screw-ups that are in there, whom God loves nonetheless.

The hypocrite story traces back to Eden, where Adam and Eve—humanity’s first parents—ate the fruit forbidden by God. The rest, as we know, was history.

After Adam and Eve, there came others:

Noah got drunk (Genesis 9:21).

Abraham offered his wife twice to predators in order to protect his own hide (Genesis 12:10-20, 20:1-18).

Jacob lived up to his name, which means “Liar” (Genesis 25:19-24).

David abused his power to commit adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11:1-27).

Solomon was a womanizer (1 Kings 11:1-10).

Saul of Tarsus was bully and the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:12-17).

The history of the church since biblical times has a similar story, with scores of living contradictions who are both saint and sinner, lover and hater, good and evil, child of God and helpless wretch.

As Andrew Wilson has said, “The story of Christianity is full of light—mission, education, art, healthcare, abolition, compassion, justice…But there is an undeniable dark side: attacking, burning, crusading, drowning, enslaving, flogging, ghettoizing, hunting, imprisoning, Jew-hating, killing, lynching, and so on through the entire alphabet. What makes this difficult to stomach is that the people involved, as far as we know, have loved God, followed Jesus, and received his Spirit.”[1]

To this we could add that John Calvin participated in burning a man at the stake, Martin Luther made racist comments, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards owned slaves, John Wesley was an absentee husband, and more.

This “appalling history” is a reason why some have chosen to dismiss Christianity altogether. How could we blame them? The appalling behaviors of some Christians, whether historic or contemporary, risk delegitimizing the whole movement.

As Chesterton said, “The only legitimate argument against Christianity is Christians.”

Far be it from me to correct Chesterton. And yet…was he correct?

Is the poor behavior of some Christians really good reason to dismiss the merits of Christ himself? Are our many failures, as offensive and hypocritical as they may be, sufficient to overrule an empty tomb?

Will we lose respect for Mozart if a nervous six-year-old girl plays his music poorly at a beginner’s piano recital?

Will we cease to think of Michael Jordan as a great basketball player if a teenage boy wearing Air Jordan shoes misses a free throw?

As important as it is for Christians to represent Jesus well to a watching world, Christians’ failure to do so is no good reason to dismiss the God-Man himself. As Tolstoy once wrote to a skeptic friend, “You preach very well, but do you carry out what you preach?”… I answer that I am guilty, and vile…[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! If it is not the right way, then show me another way.”

Maybe the real barrier to faith in Christ is that Christ saves by faith alone. Maybe the real barrier is that God’s family is not a family of put-together, pious folk, but is rather a family of blood-bought misfits that makes room for demoniacs like Mary Magdalene, cowards like Peter, adulterers and abusers of power like David, prostitutes Rahab, crooks like Zacchaeus, and others like myself who have, like Tolstoy, walked “drunkenly” along a path that is nonetheless a perfect path, because it is Christ’s path.

Maybe, Mr. Chesterton, the best argument for Christianity—and the best argument for a God who loves his people solely on the basis of grace—is severely flawed, yet always aspiring for more and better…

…Christians.

This is a modified excerpt from Irresistible Faith. Shared with permission from Thomas Nelson.


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11 responses to “How Self-Proclaimed Two-Faced Hypocrites are a Credit to Christianity”

  1. greg rogers says:

    Yes-We may be unfaithful, but our Savior Jesus is always faithful! When I went to college, I, a stubborn chap, chose a pathway that would deny at all cost the Christian worldview I was raised in just to run into some bumps that caused me to repent and confess sins to our Savior and find forgiveness in Him anyway! I have to say however that same skeptical self who wanted to see proof before blind acceptance of the terms the Christian worldview offered was more concerned with the subtle fakeness exuding from the church and ministry leaders who wore a smile while in an obvious pattern of enriching themselves on the back of those Christians following them. Where it is easy to write off the obviously stupid things even our greatest leaders have done over the centuries as sin, it is hard for a person to escape after being entranced into the guidance of a fake religionist who is promoting almost a club membership so dues and book deals flow their way. The countenance of such a leader is not one of love for God, neighbor or for concerned for justice for those treated unfairly in our world but one of using others to feed self. On top of this, there is no power in those (1cor 4:19,20) The Pharisees in Jesus time were probably on the outside nice guys who appeared like the average modern day politician who offered a lot of promises. But that outward appearance blinded their followers from a true countenance of love for God and others and the word Jesus used to describe such was “hypocrite.” This word is less saying one thing and doing another and more like acting out a role to deceive true intentions that were ultimately about self gratification. Paul admonishes us to be thankful for a true Biblical message being delivered by even those doing for the wrong reasons, but it seems to me that in most cases, all Christian influencers who unabashedly feed self at the expense of others in their fold typically redefine the gospel in light of the their best present life and less treasuring the future without sin and when we see our Savior face to face! In this day in age, I see a lot of great churches on the rise around our country, but there are still many who have unfortunately traded discipleship for consumerism and God help us!

    Since I firmly believe that the Church will thrive always more in proportion to how much God decides to bless it by His power and less when we try to manipulate it to appear such, I believe that when, in particular, church leaders who lead their flock become so conscious of the Biblical God’s presence who provided such a gospel so that no man may boast that they display a countenance of unblushing honor and love to Him before the fold in even the little ways exemplifying great humility, God may be more likely to choose to send a revival we have never experienced before in history! Doing in obedience for loving our Creator should always be the fruit of being His child, chosen by Him because He loves us just that much! Hebrews 1 through 2:4

  2. Beth Grant DeRoos says:

    What about Bible like 2 Corinthians 5:17 that say when we come to Christ we become new creations? A child playing Mozart poorly has nothing to do with judging Mozart, nor does a teen missing a shot wearing Air Jordan’s have anything to do with how we should judge Michael Jordan. Neither of those examples involve making a personal statement of faith in the belief that one wants Christ in their life and the realization that one is succumbing to him and is ready to allow him to change us.

    As Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted, when we come to Christ we die to self. We are in this world but not of it. Our words and actions mesh and are the mirror that tells others we strive to be more Christlike. Yet, sadly many Christians believe that once saved they are free to do what they want since being saved from hell is all that matters.

    Faith without works speaks to the fact that we will indeed be changed if we have sincerely committed our lives to Christ. So yes, one should be expected to be judged as a Christian by our words and deeds. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 notes ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’

    Bear in mind the countless New Testament notations that say as mere humans we all sin, yet as Christians we have the obligation to admit our sins, let those we sin against know it is us NOT Christ who has sinned when we do something sinful, wrong, bad. That it is in apologizing, humbling ourselves that we demonstrate the fact we are indeed new creations in Christ.

    • scottsauls says:

      I’m not sure who you are arguing with here.
      My essay is pro-grace, not anti-sanctification as you seem to assume.

  3. Jeannine Schepers says:

    I am very moved by the content of your essay and am encouraged by it. As Luther said simultaneously sinner and saint. I am battling each day I live to cast off my sin and some days are more challenging than others but the tension is always there. And each day I get to repent and begin again. And I know without a doubt I am always in need of my Savior Jesus. I am at peace with God but battling against the sin in me because I am a sinner.
    I share the Gospel, but it’s not about me it’s about what Christ did more than 2000 years ago at the cross. I am on a journey of sanctification, and I do repent of my sin, I am a new creature in Christ but I will continue to struggle with sin. And so I never encourage others to look at my life as an example of what a Christian should be but instead to look to Jesus the perfect Lamb of God.

  4. Doreen Pinkerton says:

    Jesus is the Lamb that was slain for our sin. Receive his love and forgiveness today and invite him in your heart. He is the Savior of th world, who wants you to have eternal life with him in heaven and to rule and reign with him on the new earth he will create! Doreen Pinkerton

  5. Jon says:

    There is so much I don’t know, but in my heart I believe that you have captured the essence of what is really means to be a Christian. We can try to be the “perfect Christian” and follow Christ with all of the effort that we can possibly muster, but in the end, our very best ‘works’ are as filthy rags before God. And that is the point! That is exactly why we need Jesus. We are so messed up! We cannot even figure out our own motives. At our very best, we fall short – and not just a little short, either. Jesus is the only chance we have. He is the only hope we have. Without Him, there is no hope at all.
    We may fall into the trap of comparing our sins to the sins of others, and concluding that we are OK – but there is no truth in that assumption/comparison. It is like comparing household garbage to commercial garbage – it is still garbage! We are all deeply flawed sinners, with no hope at all, except the saving grace we can receive via the inconceivable sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus!
    My wife and I are really enjoying your latest book. It is so refreshing that you are willing to tackle the ‘tough’ subjects that many pastors are afraid to tackle. You have helped me comprehend some things that I was too blind to see before. Thank you!

  6. Mary says:

    Thank you! So so good! Forwarded it to several people this morning and got thank you messages from each of them!

  7. […] As Andrew Wilson has said, “The story of Christianity is full of light—mission, education, art, healthcare, abolition, compassion, justice… But there is an undeniable dark side: attacking, burning, crusading, drowning, enslaving, flogging, ghettoizing, hunting, imprisoning, Jew-hating, killing, lynching and so on through the entire alphabet. What makes this difficult to stomach is that the people involved, as far as we know, have loved God, followed Jesus and received his Spirit.”[1] […]

  8. […] As Andrew Wilson has said, “The story of Christianity is full of light—mission, education, art, healthcare, abolition, compassion, justice… But there is an undeniable dark side: attacking, burning, crusading, drowning, enslaving, flogging, ghettoizing, hunting, imprisoning, Jew-hating, killing, lynching and so on through the entire alphabet. What makes this difficult to stomach is that the people involved, as far as we know, have loved God, followed Jesus and received his Spirit.”[1] […]

  9. […] As Andrew Wilson has said, “The story of Christianity is full of light—mission, education, art, healthcare, abolition, compassion, justice… But there is an undeniable dark side: attacking, burning, crusading, drowning, enslaving, flogging, ghettoizing, hunting, imprisoning, Jew-hating, killing, lynching and so on through the entire alphabet. What makes this difficult to stomach is that the people involved, as far as we know, have loved God, followed Jesus and received his Spirit.”[1] […]

  10. […] As Andrew Wilson has said, “The story of Christianity is full of light—mission, education, art, healthcare, abolition, compassion, justice… But there is an undeniable dark side: attacking, burning, crusading, drowning, enslaving, flogging, ghettoizing, hunting, imprisoning, Jew-hating, killing, lynching and so on through the entire alphabet. What makes this difficult to stomach is that the people involved, as far as we know, have loved God, followed Jesus and received his Spirit.”[1] […]

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