samedi 23 août 2003

Church hypocrisy

I wrote about this last month but it's still been on my mind since then. It's something that I've really felt laid on my heart to explore more about because it is frequent in any place where Christians gather, whether that be church, a ministry, a Christian school, etc. Of course I don't have the answers, but it is something I hope to study more about this year.

I always wonder, what seems to magnify the faults of Christians? Is it the fact that they are Christian or are in a Christian-based setting that this somehow promotes such behaviour, or is it just that they are ordinary faults which are intensified due to their religious affiliation? I think it's a combination of both.

Seeing as how I've never been in a Christian bubble until last year, I can definitely notice the differences between the two worlds. Being in an environment where nearly everyone is (assumed to be) a Christian, there is the pressure that Christians maintain a good public image in front of others. However, when you're in ordinary surroundings with Christians and non-Christians alike, you're still faced with this pressure, but it goes deeper in that you must back up your image with the right actions. This ensures that your walk matches your talk. Sadly though, this is not stressed enough as a requirement for some Christian gatherings, where people accept you at face value if you can just talk the talk. Perhaps this makes getting away with wrong behaviour easier since learning the skills to hide them is not that hard if it goes unchecked.

Also, because a person claims to adhere to Christianity, this gives people a perceived image of what their lifestyle should be like. For example, when a person says that they are a teacher, others have the impression that they have the education necessary to back up what they teach, that they have the demeanor necessary to lead others into learning and that they have the credentials to give them this authoritative role. Same with a Christian, when we say that we believe in Christ, we also believe what Christ taught regarding how we should live. By bringing about this image onto ourselves, we are giving others permission to examine our life and see if it matches up to what we say we believe. So if a Christian is found to be cheating, then clearly it is a big deal because this goes contrary to our beliefs and what we stated about ourselves, which would intensify any ordinary fault committed by a Christian.

Both of these reasons combined have helped me to see why church hypocrisy is such a dilemma in society. The fact that Christians are letting it slide while at the same time, trying to show others why our lives are different from theirs, is deteriorating our reputation and ultimately, what people think about Jesus. We reflect Him, we bear His image in this life and yet we so easily tarnish it. I, for one, am guilty of this every time I proclaim my Christ and then do something contrary to what the Scriptures say. What this has taught me though, is that I have higher standards to live by than everyone else and to realize that I cannot do it alone without God.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
-Roman 3:23

This verse definitely speaks the truth about why there is hypocrisy in the church. As Gordon Hilsman has bluntly put it, "If you're going to get any help from religion, you have to realize that it's one-half people, and that's what screws it up". [Dale and Sandy Larsen, 7 Myths about Christianity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1998), 94.] I wholeheartedly agree. The religion side of things, that is the man-made part of Christianity is not perfect. But the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ, is undoubtedly perfect and He is the only one we can trust in... not Christianity but Christ. What a challenge He has left us in this life though; to grow more and more like Him everyday so that we can:

"...let [our] light shine before men, that they may see [our] good deeds and praise [our] Father in heaven."
- Matthew 5:16

This little blurb is only a glimpse into what I think regarding this whole topic. I'm sure there are many other Christians out there who have analyzed this issue more thoroughly and expressed it more eloquently than I have and I hope to be able to read some of their work one day :)

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