The charge of hypocrisy is the one I most often hear levied against the Church and used as an excuse by those who want no part of it. “I don’t want to hang out with a bunch of hypocrites” This is often the claim made by those who fail to realize that that statement is incredibly…well…hypocritical. It is the equivalent of saying, “I don’t want to be a hypocrite by hanging out with a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites who judge people.” That is, of course, in their judgment. Hellooooo. But I digress.
The truth is, they’re right. There are a bunch of hypocrites inside the church just like outside. The goal, though, is for us to strive for obeying Scripture consistently so at least if we’re accused of something, it’s not that we’re wishy-washy.
Case in point: I had a great conversation this week with a person who told me they know of someone who won’t come back to The Gathering because I made an unmarried couple mad when I told them that until they were married, they would have to stop living together (yeah, literally move out) and repent of that sin before I would consider performing their wedding and before they could consider joining our church. That was, in their judgment, too much to ask. We were accused of being hypocritical for “judging them” and making them feel uncomfortable. They were essentially upset because we insist on labeling what the Bible calls sin…well, sin.
OK, so this person was right. Guilty as charged: we do call sin, sin (though it is Scripture that is doing the judging…they’re not my rules). They are also right that we call people to repentance (just like Scripture does). We do not, however, do it to be hypocritical but to prevent us and them from being so and we strive to be consistent.
It is OK not to be OK, but it’s not OK to stay that way and for us to say we believe Scripture yet dismiss what it says as unimportant to live by would be fatally flawed. The unpopular fact is that God cannot and will not bless a life that is characterized by willful sin and we really want to see lives blessed. It’s that simple. What would be hypocritical on any church’s part is to say, “they are sinners but we are not.” But we all have to repent and turn from our sin. Every single one of us!
We work really hard to communicate this in a compassionate way, but at the end of the day, we don’t want any of us to be comfortable in our sins and so we address it. To do otherwise would be like the crew of a cruise ship refusing to point out to passengers that it’s sinking because they don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable. After all, they came on a cruise to escape stress and discomfort. Sheesh, everybody knows that!
Unfortunately, (and this is a bit of a side note) too many churches have allowed the “abandon ship (read: sin)” to be silenced because (to adapt my metaphor) they’re afraid someone might decide to get off of their boat! So the ships are full to overflowing with sinking people who don’t even realize it. The popular (though, thankfully, not universal) solution? Just build bigger ships.
So, we must call for and expect more, from ourselves and each other. See, what is hypocritical is when we use the label “Christian” to characterize ourselves (see 95% of FB profiles) yet neglect or refuse to structure our lives according to what that label dictates.