As a child I looked for any excuse I could find to get out of doing what I was supposed to do. Almost any excuse would be acceptable. "Other kids donít have to do it" was one of my favorites. And I am pretty sure that if I sat down and thought about it I could come up with a list of other famous excuses.
As I got older my human nature didnít change. However, my excuses got more sophisticated. And then I had an encounter with Jesus. My life would never be the same. Having a personal relationship with Jesus changes your priorities. You become acutely aware of what it means to be a Christian. The old excuses just wonít work anymore.
One of the excuses adults use for rejecting Christianity is that there are hypocrites in the Church. Their reasoning goes something like this; if people who go to Church arenít acting as they should it obviously isnít doing them any good so why should I go? And by derivation; why should I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ?
This argument is based on a serious misunderstanding of Christianity. The simple Gospel message is that we are all sinners in need of a savior. And Jesus is that Savior. Some people accept Him and some do not. Unfortunately there are some who say they accept Him but in fact they do not. For anyone familiar with human beings this is no surprise. But some will use this third group, the hypocrites, as an excuse to not take Christianity seriously.
What would motivate anyone to do such a thing? The answer to that is simple; God always calls us to a higher standard. However, because of our fallen nature we have a tendency to go down a different path. Some prefer to take God out of the picture altogether. But it is hard to ignore all the good the Church has done. Others prefer to accept God on their own terms. And by that I mean that they wish to eliminate the Christian teachings that they donít prefer. In both cases there is a need to discredit the Church. Once the Church is discredited they are free to do as they see fit. But if God is real, and there is overwhelming evidence that He is, we donít have the option to eliminate Him or restrict Him.
In saying this I donít mean to belittle the experience of those who have been hurt by the hypocrisy of others. For the most part, these people are not looking for excuses. They are merely responding to betrayal. A betrayal perpetrated by those who were commissioned to bring them hope. Jesus had much to say about hypocrites. One of His better known comments appears in the Gospel of Luke: "It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin" (17:2).
I believe when these individuals leave the Church the blame will fall in large part on the hypocrites who betrayed them. Their actions constituted a misrepresentation of Christianity. And it is that misrepresentation that is being rejected. To these people I would say; Please donít judge Jesus by the actions of those who disobey Him. Set aside the hypocrites and seek Him out. You still need Him. And He will always be there for you. To deny oneself of Godís grace because of someone elseís behavior is self-destructive. I have no doubt that anyone reading this essay understands the point I made earlier about the three responses to Jesus. But to help it stick in your mind I would like to use an illustration.
Imagine that you live in a town where everyone is a bit out of shape. To be more specific everyone could stand to lose a little weight. The townís leaders decide to research the problem. What they find is that if you cut back on your fat and sugar intake you can lose weight. This of course leads to a healthier and happier life. They present their findings to the townspeople. Some want no part of it because they donít want anyone interfering in their lives. And of course that is their right. But others are enthusiastic about adopting the plan.
Those who were in favor of the plan form a little club. They even opened up a store, a store that only sold the healthier foods. The citizen who was most knowledgeable about the diet was charged with running the store. Guest speakers would occasionally be brought in to further the peopleís education on proper nutrition. Everyone was happy and the thinking was that their problems had been solved. This new system, as simple as it was to understand, was not without its challenges. And that is because eating the unhealthy foods was enjoyable. No one forgot what strawberry ice cream covered with hot fudge tasted like. But everyone in the group seemed positive and the new enterprise got off to a good start.
It was soon discovered that some of the people in the club had been cheating. One lady was caught raiding a secret stash of chocolate. A man was found gorging himself on cheesecake. The most disturbing violation was the discovery that the man who ran the clubís store was secretly eating a pound of bacon and a dozen jelly donuts for breakfast every morning. The diet hypocrites began to put on weight. When the non-club members saw this some of them assumed the new diet was a waste of time. Others knew better but they jumped at the chance to use the situation as an excuse to not even try the new diet.
Does it make any sense for people to claim that the new diet had been discredited? Of course not. Those who gained weight werenít on the new diet and thus by abandoning it they only discredited themselves. It is the same with Christianity. Those who say they practice it but donít only discredit themselves. What speaks to the credibility of the diet is the results of those who are actually on it. Likewise what speaks to the credibility of Christianity is the results of those who practice it.
Sin, just like the forbidden food, is enjoyable. And so we struggle. Some just give up and embrace sin while pretending to be believers. These are the hypocrites. Others seek God for help. Consequently their struggle is easier and they produce much good fruit. To the honest seeker this constitutes a compelling reason to embrace the faith. To the person looking for an excuse it hardly deserves any notice.
Because we are all fallen creatures we all sin to some degree. As the saying goes, nobody is perfect. Some will object to being classified as fallen creatures. But if youíre not perfect it means there is something wrong with you. A true follower of Christ admits that he is a sinner and seeks the help of his God in putting to death the sin that is in him. He may struggle and fall but He always gets up and reaches for the hand of God. These are not hypocrites. A hypocrite is one who embraces his sin and tries to justify it with empty words.
The Church is not a society of perfect people. It never has been and it never will be. The Church is a spiritual hospital for sinners. And like any hospital you have minor cases and major cases. You also have some patients who accept and some who refuse treatment. But the bottom line is that we all need the treatment. Is your church full of hypocrites? Find another church if you have to. But donít leave Jesus because of Judas.
While our little story concerning the diet is useful in illustrating the situation in the Church, we have to admit that it is not a perfect analogy. With the diet, avoiding the unhealthy foods was a matter of oneís own will power. In Christianity, avoiding sin is accomplished through the power of Godís grace. He does it all. We just open our hearts to Him. In Hebrews 12:15 we read: "See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God."
Those who isolate themselves from the Church have a much harder time getting to heaven. It is not that itís impossible, itís just harder. A wise priest once told me that "all human relationships are about one thing; getting each other to heaven." And despite the hypocrites, the Church does the best job of that.
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