“…Do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others.” (Matthew 6:5)
A few years ago, at a Montreat Youth Conference, the leaders showed us a video of a google search. As many of us know, when we begin a phrase google will try to finish it. So the typer put in “why is the church…” and eventually, “why are Christians…” to which the first fill-in from google was: hypocritical.
Now, here’s the thing about the way google does this – it does not fill in the sentence with ideas that a group of human controllers are thinking up in a random room somewhere. The sentences are finished by the statements that are searched for the most. Which means that there are a lot of people out there asking that question.
Many of us do attempt to live into a life of humble forgiveness to others. We see we are fallen. We admit we mess up and fall short. We know that we are in no position to judge. We try to love as best we can. So why do so many people think that the church is full of hypocrites?
Two reasons. The first is that there are many among us (every one of us included at some point, by the way) who do practice our piety to put on a show for others. We want the accolades of being a “good Christian.” We don’t want to focus so much on all the ways we mess up and want to hide the ways we do. All we want is to be seen as the perfect child of God – that cannot possibly exist. To live this way, goes against Christ’s own principles and does, unfortunately, make us hypocrites.
The second reason is a bit more troubling. When we hear things being said and see things being done that are against God’s purposes – hatred, malevolence, injustice, sowing mistrust, false imprisonment, violence, broken bodies and relationships, just to name a few – and we do nothing, then we are hypocrites. It is an ancient adage from our own and all the Abrahamic faiths, that to see evil and do nothing is to commit evil ourselves.
So yes, unfortunately the world is correct that often Christians are hypocrites. Trust me when I say that I did not enjoy figuring this out anymore than any of you who may be reading this. The good news is that admission is the first and biggest step to recovery.
Once we realize that it is not just others of our brethren living in hypocrisy, but we ourselves, then we can begin to change. We can become more aware of what we do and say. We can intentionally pay attention to what is happening to others. We can live out our faith and belief in Christ by living as Christ did. As much as we must stand against evil and injustice, we must also find new ways to stand for love, hope, peace, compassion, justice, truth, wholeness, reconciliation, courage, learning, care, rebuilding, renewing, recreating.
Though the road may be long to the world seeing that the church is always trying to overcome its hypocrisy, and that the body of Christ is truly doing many good things – we have to try. It begins with you and with me. Through our prayers. Through our words. Through our actions.
May we live for Christ and may others find Christ alive in us.