Negative Christian Stereotype: Are Christians Hypocritical?

So how did Christians acquire a hypocritical image in America today? Let’s start with the most obvious reason: our lives don’t match our beliefs. In many ways, our lifestyles and perspectives are no different from those of anyone around us.

This is true. Though redeemed, we still carry sin within us. When one adds to this problem the many scandals caused by professing Christians in recent decades, along with the fact that many people claim to be Christians who are not, we have a weighty problem on our hands. We need to be honest with unbelievers about our own shortcomings and the different factors that contribute to our hypocritical image.

Then again, are Christians really more hypocritical than most non-Christians? Could it be the world has a vested interest in making much of one and not the other?

Many passionate Christians have sometimes failed to love those to whom they are witnessing and have thought of them as evangelistic statistics, not people. This is regrettable, and we should be challenged to change. We should also wonder whether it isn’t a simple consequence of gospel witness that many people feel put upon, especially in an age that is determinedly anti-preachy (except when it comes to global warming, same-sex marriage, and other popular concerns in our culture).

Bottom Line: Christians make the most impact when they are genuine and genuinely care about others.

Introduction Message to the Christian

• Give an illustration about hypocrisy: either when someone else or yourself didn’t practice what they/you preached.

• Give an illustration of when someone wasn’t interested in your friendship, they only cared about their agenda (like a “friend” trying to get you to participate in their pyramid scheme.)

• We all hate it when people aren’t genuine, when they don’t practice what they preach or when they are only concerned with their own agenda at our expense. It’s an issue of integrity.

• There’s something inside of us that longs for people to have integrity in how they live and how they relate to us. That’s the image of God in all of us, not just believers. And that’s why so many non-Christians are so frustrated with Christians who are hypocrites or who only care about one thing: trying to convert them.

Biblical Text: 1 Peter 2:11-12

• Jesus had plenty to say about hypocrites. He instructed us to consider the plank in our own eyes before we point out the speck in others (Mt 7:1-5). He even reserved his harshest condemnation for those religious people he considered hypocrites (Mt 23). What would Jesus say about religious people today?

• We all know that there is nothing winsome about hypocrisy. But what about efforts to convert people? The harder we try, it seems, the less people want to listen to us. And if we’re only concerned about converting someone, are we really concerned about that person as a person?

• These are not new issues. They were important in the early church as well and Peter gives us instructions about how we are to make the most impact in culture and in the lives of those around us.

• 1 Peter 2:11: we are living as “foreigners” in our culture and therefore we must be careful to make our own spiritual lives a priority. Don’t concern yourself with the sins of others (we talked about being judgmental last time); be more concerned with your own selfish desires—taking the plank out of your own eye.

• 1 Peter 2:12: we will make the biggest impact on others through our good works toward others. This doesn’t devalue evangelism—there is a time and a place to, as Peter says a few verses later, “to give the reason for the hope we have.” But our words should be an outflow of our deeds.

• As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times; if necessary, use words.”

Conclusion /Application

• How important are relationships to us? We must begin by building meaningful relationships with others.

• Are we genuine in our relationships? We must demonstrate transparency, admit our flaws, and not judge the flaws in others.

• Do we genuinely care about others in our relationships? Or do we just care about getting people saved? Naturally, if we care about others, we care about their eternal destiny. But we also care about what is going on in their lives today and how we can serve and help them. By loving others where they are, we allow and trust God to work through our actions to impact their lives. But our words will ring hollow if they are not preceded by loving actions.

Bible Study

1. What do you think the true definition of hypocrisy should be? What are examples of hypocrisy in your life that you should be more transparent about?

2. Born again Christians are often not very different from others in terms of lifestyle activities and choices. What are your reactions to this information? What contributes to this?

3. Only 34% of young outsiders believe that Christians genuinely care about them. But among Christians, 64% said outsiders would perceive their efforts as genuine. Why do you believe there is such a huge gap?

4. Read 2 Timothy 2:24-25. Discuss the role of the Christ follower and the part the Holy Spirit plays in someone choosing to follow Christ.

By hypocritical, non-christians mean saying we believe something, but acting contrary to that belief; having a double standard. Or pretending to be better or more “holy” than someone else while privately being the same as other people. We talk about having “joy” and “peace” in our lives, while in many cases our lives are just as messed up, stressful, and full of uneasiness as everyone else. We have no problem passing righteous judgment on someone else, while ignoring our own problems. What’s your definition of being hypocritical?

A Story to Make It Real:

“I do agree that Christians can be good people. But, not good enough to defy their god by doing some community outreach with “hell-bound” people. I would never consider being a Christian, but I might consider not being so critical if more Christians were open and genuine and willing to actually talk about their beliefs. Their arrogance (“we know the truth, you don’t”) belies the hypocrisy of whatever acceptance/love they could muster.”

Examples: (Do you have any stories to share here? What’s the impact of our hypocrisy?)

1. The way we lecture “non-believers” on sinning without developing any relationship.

2. How we act perfect on Sundays after being lewd or drunk on Saturday.

3. How we wear a cross around our neck, while cursing out a store clerk.

4. Claiming that loving others is part of being a Christian, but we verbally assault a friend or family member on a social media website.

5. How we justify our own sins, “I’m not as bad as other people who…”

6. How we pray loudly in church, or offer to serve and then complain about the person we’re praying about or the service we have to do.

7. Driving a car with a Christian emblem on the back of our car, but driving disrespectfully or against the law.

8. Segregating ourselves with only certain friends, while gossiping about those around us.

9. Any other examples you can think of?

What God Say About It (The Bible): Jesus spoke about and warned against Hypocrisy:

Matthew 23:13 (NIV)

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Matthew 23:26-27 (NIV)

Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.

1 Peter 2:1 (NIV)

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

Matthew 15:7-9 (NIV)

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. (Isaiah 29:13)

Matthew 24:51 (NIV)

He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Verses for further study: James 3:10-12, Luke 12:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:22, Matthew 7:3-5, John 8:7- 11, Luke 13:15, Matthew 23:24, Job 20:5, Hebrews 6:1,

Closing Thoughts on Hypocrisy:

Every Christian is guilty of living a sinful life because no one is capable of escaping sin on our own. When we speak or live in a way that hides our sins, or we act as if we do not struggle with any sins, we start down a road of hypocrisy. We begin to live as if we are above those who do not go to church. We live as if our sins are paid for, and not as bad as other people’s sins, like we have a license to sin, because we know Jesus. But this is exactly what the Bible scriptures speak about guarding against. We need to confess our own sins to one another, and look at each other as equally burdened with the same effects of sin. We need to stop living as if we are perfect or “special” compared to others who may not yet know Christ. And when we live in a way that demonstrates that we are all equal in our plight, we can then begin to see the value of Christ as a savior to us all.

Are you more concerned with pleasing man or pleasing God?

Can you admit your own sins, and be willing to follow what you believe?

Action:

1) In the coming weeks, evaluate your behavior outside of the church. Do your beliefs and actions match?

2) Study these Bible verses for greater depth and meaning.

3) When you represent Christ to others, be honest about your own shortcomings and admit your own failures and the redemption that Christ offers.

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