How did you finish that sentence? Many people would say “hypocrites”. That is a common critique of the church. Often people say that to justify their lack of attendance at worship. “I don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites.” Often Christians agree with them.
But I wonder if this is really accurate? Is the church full of hypocrites?
According to the Dictionary.com, a hypocrite is ” a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.” Or” a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life,opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.”
As I think back over all the church people I have known, I have known very few if any hypocrites. I have know plenty of fallible people. I have know people who fell short of how they wished to act and live- myself included. But I can’t think of anyone who pretended or feigned their faith. I am not naive enough to think that there are not some hypocrites in some church somewhere. Odds are somebody, somewhere is a hypocrite. But I don’t think there are as many as are commonly talked about.
I have been guilty of assuming that someone was a hypocrite. More than once, I have looked at someone and decided based on their appearance, or job or the car they drove that they couldn’t be serious about their faith and must be a hypocrite. Every time I got to know those persons, I was wrong. They were not hypocrites. They were sincere believers. Not perfect. Not necessarily theologically deep thinkers ( although sometimes surprisingly so). But they were faithful and sincere in their beliefs.
All of us fall short of how we hope to live. Most of us want to pray more, be more loving, be more giving, and so on. The fact that we fail doesn’t make us hypocrites. We would be a hypocrite if we didn’t try at all, or if we didn’t feel remorse at our failings. But trying and failing doesn’t make one a hypocrite. Trying and failing just makes us human.
When I think back about the church people I have known, I remember lots of really wonderful people. People of sincere and active faith. People I am deeply grateful to have known. People whose example and friendship have made me a better Christian.
I’d like to know, what has your experience been?