One of the most common reasons people give for avoiding church is this: “Churches are full of hypocrites, and I just cannot stand being around hypocrites!”
My 14-year-old daughter recently offered a response to that logic. She was presented the argument and replied by saying, “Staying out of church because you are concerned that you might encounter a hypocrite is like staying out of a gym because people there cheat on their diets.”
People are not perfect. Christians are not perfect. And hypocrites exist in all facets of society.
Here is the problem. Nearly all who profess Christianity know they are not perfect. Everyone around them knows they are not perfect.
Yet there is a continued belief or stereotype that everyone who goes to church believes he or she is perfect. As a result, churchgoing Christians are held to a standard that is not measured by that for which they are reaching, but measured by that which has been expected by others. They have to meet the status quo of the stereotype in order to be trusted by non-churchgoers.
God is fully aware of the broken state of man. Yet in his love and mercy, he offers grace that covers and protects us — even our messed-up, imperfect lives.
That is the important thing: Realize that God loves imperfect people! He loves them so much, he accepts them. But he doesn’t just accept them. He also creates the opportunity for them to break free of the things that make life chaotic. He doesn’t create perfection people. Instead, he teaches people how to overcome their imperfections and no longer be handcuffed by them. He creates a new identity for believers that reaches beyond their imperfections and weaknesses and allows people to begin to experience his amazing life.
This is found in 1 Peter 2:9-10 (Phillips), which states, “But you are God’s ‘chosen generation,’ his ‘royal priesthood,’ his ‘holy nation,’ his ‘peculiar people’ — all the old titles of God’s people now belong to you. It is for you now to demonstrate the goodness of him who has called you out of darkness into his amazing light. In the past you were not ‘a people’ at all: now you are the people of God. In the past you had no experience of his mercy, but now it is intimately yours.”
Yes, there are people who attend church who seem to have little mercy for other imperfect people. But as has been stated, there are people in every walk of life with little tolerance for those who are not “walking” or living exactly as they are.
I constantly remind our congregation that the Bible teaches, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).
It is our responsibility to love. When we do, people realize that we accept them just as Jesus accepts them — without reservation. It is in that place of acceptance that he begins to massage their hearts and stir their convictions. In other words, we invite people to Jesus. He draws them from darkness to light.
If you go to church, will you encounter a hypocrite? Quite possibly. But it is more likely that you will encounter someone who, like everyone else, has a past and is simply looking to have a better future! On behalf of non-hypocritical Christians everywhere, we hope to see you next Sunday!
Byler is the lead pastor of Connection Church in Flemington and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance.