OK, maybe not all of us, but far too many of us. The internet is full of our hypocrisy.
We preach conservative family values and wave our brand of Christianity like a triumphant banner guaranteeing success — and, when caught actively pursuing adulterous affairs and paying for sex, we cry that we are poor, helpless addicts in need of rehab.
We amass a following and enjoy our status as theologians — and, when our names are found listed on a website of those seeking adulterous affairs, we cry that we are lonely widowers, overcome with curiousity, and that we stopped short of physically fulfilling our lusts.
We preach grace and, when forced to admit our adulterous affairs, blame our wives for being unfaithful first, and thus forcing us to find solace in the arms of other women.
But it’s not a new thing, this hypocrisy. It’s ongoing.
We preach against homosexuality while frequenting homosexual prostitutes.
We proclaim the importance of the family while tearing ours apart.
And it’s not just the celebrity Christians who are hypocrites.
We criticize those discovered committing the very sins we engage in, because we are arrogant enough to assume we are too clever to be exposed.
We denounce feminists as home-wreckers, elevate the domestic arts, teach the necessity of a servant heart and meek spirit for women, exhort wives to submit to their husbands in even the most difficult situations — and then we leave our husbands to run off with other men who promise us a different lifestyle.
We decry the church leaders who rent porn movies in their hotel rooms at Christian conferences. But we justify doing the same at our secular conferences: after all, we were curious…we were lonely…we were sexually unfulfilled…we had good reason to be angry at our spouses…and besides, at least we weren’t being “poor testimonies” by being openly Christian.
We encourage and live the ultimate in conservative, wholesome lifestyles, criticizing those with “lesser standards”, only to engage in secret flirtations that we justify as “harmless friendships” — and then pretend surprise at finding ourselves in the midst of sordid affairs.
We preach repentance but excuse, justify, and minimize our sins. We didn’t actually do x, y, z…we stopped short…what that other person did was far worse…we couldn’t help it…we can explain…we were hurting at the time…we were lonely…our spouses were making us suffer…we were addicted…there were extenuating circumstances…it sounds worse than it really was…don’t judge…what about you?…let the one who is without sin cast the first stone…stop making such a big deal of this…get over it already!
We preach morality — and practice immorality.
We preach truth — and practice lies and deception.
We preach love — and practice hate.
We preach the gospel — and trample it under foot.
Yes, not all of us. Not all Christians. I know, I know. Not every one of us hides secret sin, and not every one of us is a hypocrite and a phony. But far too many of us are. We have only ourselves to blame that our reputation, as followers of Jesus, has become synonymous with full of hypocrites rather than full of love.
That’s why many of us have felt forced to have discussions of late, trying to figure out how to respond to, how to process, this latest round of public exposures and scandals. There are those who choose to minimize these egregious sins, excuse them — or blame them on extenuating circumstances, faulty theology, poor upbringings, human frailty, and wives who aren’t sexy or eager enough. Others propose all sorts of remedies against sin. On one extreme are those who seem to want to toss up their hands and give up — admit we are all vile sinners, pretend no sin is worse than another, talk about grace, and hope for the best in the end. On the other extreme are those who demand more rules and safeguards, higher standards, and an all-out, never ceasing, full scale war against any and all sin.
Then there is me…author of a blog titled “Prone to wander”…former prodigal daughter dragged/carried back home by a loving Father…what about me?
In one of those recent discussions, I wrote this:
I have tried the legalistic approach, erecting rules and structures designed to keep me from what I determined were the most egregious sins. That reduced me to battling against sin with my own strength and wisdom — or attempting to apply what I thought was wisdom from others.
I have tried the “we are all vile sinners so let us thank God for His grace” approach.
The end result? I am not strong enough or wise enough or good enough for either approach.
These days my heart’s cry is that I might know Jesus, truly KNOW Him, both through the pages of Scripture and through time spent in His Presence, and that I might be transformed through His indwelling presence…that I might become holy as He is holy. I desperately need and desire that intimacy and unity with Him, because He is both my greatest reward and my only true hope.
If we love Him, we will obey His commandments. We will find His yoke easy and His burden light. My biggest prayer is that I might love Him more, not just to keep me from sin, but because He is worthy of a far greater love than that which flies from my puny, selfish, stingy little heart.
[In my opinion], we cannot spend time — prayerful, reflective time in which we ask the Holy Spirit for illumination — in the epistles and come away with an attitude of “we all sin so adultery and murder is no big deal”.
But I think it is important that, in our personal lives, we spend far more time focused on pursuing Christ than on fighting sin. Silly example: I could spend all day battling fiercely against any temptation to adultery or murder, and find myself feeling quite victorious at day’s end. But I would be no closer to my Savior and no more like Him.
I begin to hate sin when I ask Him to turn me into the sort of person who hates what He hates and loves what He loves.
There is so little of Jesus in all too much of what I read these days about how we should respond to sin.
It’s not just religious talk: Jesus really is my greatest reward and my only true hope. The sad truth of my nature and character is something I blurted out to my parents during one of my wandering prodigal phases, “I am not cut out for Christianity!” (My father tried to tell me that was the very point: none of us are. But I found that hard to believe coming from him, the man whose life makes me almost believe in the doctrine of sinless perfection.)
Ah, so your Christianity is just a crutch?
Yes..and no. Honestly, Christianity has not served me well as a crutch — because my problem is much deeper and more serious than a lame or gimpy leg. I need a Savior, a Healer, a Rescuer, a Friend. In short, I need Jesus.
He doesn’t beat me up when He shows me the enormity and ugliness of my sins in comparison to His goodness. He doesn’t condemn me when He reminds me what those hideous sins of mine cost Him. But being forced to face my sins without excuse— even the little, seemingly inconsequential ones — does break my heart…and that’s a good thing. On its own, my heart has a tendency to grow callous, hard, and unloving. It is His love for me, His friendship with me, that brings me to life.
So the answer to this whole mess of hypocritical Christians behaving abysmally? It’s more Jesus. He offers the only lasting cure for those of us with a bent towards hypocrisy, or whatever other sins happen to be the ones that plague and entice us.
More of Him, less of me.
That may sound like a pious platitude, but I mean it profoundly, in a way that is both desperate and practical. Finally, after all these years, I am getting to know Him in a deeper and more real sense than ever before, and my entire life is being turned upside down. His love is changing me, at the very core of my being, more than I ever thought possible. I’m still not cut out for Christianity. But, with His help, I hope to follow Jesus anywhere He takes me. After all, why wouldn’t I want to follow the One who lavishes and inundates me with a greater love than I ever thought possible, the One who died to win my heart?
One of my favorite quotes: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Yes, that quote is so honest and so convicting!
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Reblogged this on Spiritual Sounding Board and commented:
I think I’ve hit the “reblog” button just one other time. Rebecca’s post is so good and really identifies what I’m struggling with.
Each week I try to plan out articles for the week, yet it seems each week celebrity Christians never fail to give me too much to write on. Thank you,
Rebecca, for this excellent article! and bringing me back “home.” when so much of Christianity fails us. ~ja
OR, it could be that christians are no different than anyone else. I know it’s not terribly profound, but it means we’re human when we make mistakes – plain and simple.
Then that means that christians need to stop judging the rest of us for not coming up to THEIR standards of behavior and belief.
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I don’t think we should expect others to behave and think the way the Bible says we as Christians should live and behave. However, if our own lives are not being transformed by the gospel, there is something seriously wrong.
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There was no ‘reply’ button under your comment, Rebecca, so I’m responding here. I hope you get the idea. Your phrase about your own lives being touched by the Gospel – just exactly what does that mean? If you mean that you are trying to do your best to be nice to people on an everyday basis, I’d point out that it’s what most people – regardless of their belief or non-belief – strive for, on a daily basis. If you mean that you shouldn’t be judging others for any reason, it’s also what all the secular humanists I know are doing.
You see, it seems to me that christians seem to somehow feel they are SPECIAL in some way and the above examples contained in your blog piece underline the obvious fact that it’s just not true. For instance, I frequent many blogs of previous believers in the (christian) god, Yahweh. A fellow commented yesterday that he belonged to a very popular mega-church for 40 years and that his friend with dementia was ‘dropped’ by all his christian friends after his diagnosis. This fellow and another non-believer were the only two of his large circle of friends who had anything to do with him, taking him places and interacting with him until his death just last week. The reason he and his friend maintained the friendship?
It was the right thing to do. You see, many of us do the RIGHT thing, not the ‘christ’ thing. It’s a way of life for secular humanists. I believe one does not need (a) god to be GOOD. It’s been proven over and over. Perhaps this doesn’t apply to you, but many christians need to get over themselves.
You sound like a lovely person and I’d guess it’s because you make good choices, interact positively, and do your best on a daily basis.
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Lives being touched by the gospel…I should probably do a whole post on what I mean by that!
I agree that many of us Christians need to get over ourselves. Myself included at times.
In a nutshell, I believe we were all created in the image of God, which I take to mean — among other things — that there is some goodness in all of us. But when it comes to having an intimate relationship with a perfect God, none of us are good enough. We all mess up one way or another and fail to do the right thing consistently.
The good news that we Christians believe is that Jesus Christ is the remedy for our failings. He stands in the gap for us, so to speak, and provides not only forgiveness but the avenue through which we can be in a right relationship with God.
Sometimes people want to limit that, as if Jesus is simply our ticket to Heaven. But I believe He wants to transform us here and now. It’s not just about doing good; it’s about a deep friendship with Him. He gives us the desire and the strength to become more like Him, but it’s a process, not an instant, magical ZAP! (Although I wish it was…I wish I could suddenly and easily become more loving, more patient, more wise, more good…and less selfish and flaky.)
My biggest goal is to know Jesus more…to really and truly know Him. I just wish I was a better representative for Him.
Thanks for your comment. I was so sad about the man with dementia, but so glad that he had at least two people who stood by him.
This is the kind of thinking that I really find discouraging – that you think you aren’t ‘good enough’. When I first started reading these kinds of blogs, around three years ago, I encountered this destructive thinking over and over.
YES, you are good enough. Just the way you are, foibles and all. If I could reach out to all the people who really take this nasty message to heart (just the way pastors/priests want you to; it keeps them ‘in business’) and POUND into your heads that you are wonderful the way you are, that it’s obvious by what you write, your personal testimonies, your actions on a daily basis that you are sensible, kind, giving, WORTHY people – I’d feel that I had acccomplished something.
What kind of monster sets up a world in which he creates imperfect people whom he knows full well are going to mess up, then produces a human sacrifice to keep those same people kowtowing for ever and ever?? Oh, and then adds on the message, “You’re nothing without me!” And, “If you don’t kowtow for the rest of your life, you’re going to roast in a fiery pit!” ?? Sorry, I don’t buy it. Not for a moment. I’m really sorry you – and so many others – do. I’m glad I’m not made in Yahweh – the Bronze-Age war-god – ‘s image – I just can’t believe such a thing.
Oh, and P.S. I’m sure there are real people in your life who are wonderful mentors. I’d encourage your relationship with them over a mythical figure any day. Please don’t take that as being disrespectful – I mean it sincerely.
Ah, I wish I could express it better. In comparison to a perfect, holy, magnificent — and, yes, loving — God, I am only human. At the same time, I am “wonderfully made”, as the Bible tells me. God’s love for me is far more wonderful and has been far more healing to me than any human love. I experience a level of acceptance from Him that I never thought was possible…it goes beyond that even of the most accepting people in my life.
I know that you view God as a mythical figure. I have experienced too much to write Him off as a myth.
Don’t worry; I didn’t see your words as disrespectful but as caring.
No words, just a smiley. 🙂
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For years I thought the Christian life was just ‘not sinning’ or fighting sin. But I realize there are things we are called to do just as well as things not to do. I have tried to do those things legalistically, and burned out very fast and they were just a burden, not with love. Now after reading John 15:4, I must abide in Christ to be fruitful. I was putting the cart before the horse to be accepted. I realized that when I prioritize Jesus and make intimate time for Him, the good fruit comes naturally, and isn’t a burden, but is done in genuine love backed by His Spirit and not in the strength of my flesh. I also went through the list of the fruit of the spirit Galatians (5:22-23) and realized I lacked them and thought, “if the Spirit is in me then I will have His fruit showing itself in my life.” The Bible says, ‘if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, He is not His.’ Romans 8:9. Realizing I didn’t see any fruit of the Spirit in my life, caused me to cry out for salvation and not to be religious. I confessed I had a wicked and deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9). And like in Ezekiel 36:26, I asked God to take out my wicked, hard, cold, singed-with-a-hot-iron, heart, and give me a new heart that was tender to the Spirit and that desired Godly things and righteousness. I realized my fruit didn’t match what I professed and realized I was just religious and still needed a Savior. And He saved me that day. Whether you call it “rededication”, or a false convert getting saved for the first time, I don’t care, I knew that Christ heard my cry that day and I saw the change and the love of Christ flow naturally out of me, instead of a life of legalism I had hypocritically lived before for many years. Jesus said we will know them by their fruits, so instead of just claiming to know Jesus, I asked myself what does the fruit of my life show? It contradicted, so I repented.Before I was like a caterpillar trying to be a butterfly, but I hadn’t been changed in Christ as a new creation yet, and was thus frustrated I couldn’t do what a butterfly does. Thank God for His mercy, He could have thrown a Pharisee like me, justly into hell, but He saved me from that. Evaluate yourselves also, to see if you have a religion, or a relationship with Christ. Adrian Rogers once said, “if your religion hasn’t changed you, it hasn’t saved you.” Even someone growing up in Church all their life should see a major difference in their life when they truly come to Christ, even if they didn’t ‘sin much’. The good lives they live and the good things they do, should be done out of genuine love for Christ, and not a resenting obligation to get on God’s good side. I appreciate your blog, feel free to also read mine at: http://ransomforsouls.blogspot.com
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Thanks for your testimony.
“I realized that when I prioritize Jesus and make intimate time for Him, the good fruit comes naturally, and isn’t a burden, but is done in genuine love backed by His Spirit and not in the strength of my flesh.”
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