Are Christians Hypocrites?

One of the main objections and roots of hostility toward Christianity is the claim that Christians are hypocrites.  Many people disdain Christians because they supposedly claim one thing and do another.  Because of this, they reject Christianity and the Christian message.  I would like to explore this thought process and examine whether or not it is legitimate.

To do this, it would be helpful to break down the argument in order to understand and investigate what those opposed to Christianity are actually saying.   It seems to me that the general argument can be broken down into two separate claims: 1) Christians are hypocrites and 2) Because Christians are hypocrites, the Christian message is not true.  I will examine each of these claims separately.

Claim 1) Christians are hypocrites.  

  • What is a Christian and What is a Hypocrite?

It seems to me that before you can determine the truth of this claim, you must understand the terms you are using.  For our purposes, a useful definition of hypocrite is “one who acts in contradiction to her stated beliefs or feelings.”  A Christian is, essentially a “Christ-follower” or “one who professes beliefs in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

So if a Christian is one who professes certain beliefs and a hypocrite is one who acts in contradiction to those beliefs, it is easy to see that Christians easily could be hypocrites.  However, we cannot draw conclusions on these facts alone.  If the determining factor of whether or not a Christian is a hypocrite is the message that they profess, we must know what the Christian message actually is.

Working with the aforementioned definition of Christian, Christians profess beliefs in the teachings of Jesus Christ.  I think here, we have reached a point that is critical to our examination.  Before labeling a Christian as a hypocrite, we must determine if we can truly label them as a Christian.  In other words, is what they proclaim truly the message of Christ?  There are a lot of people in the world claiming things in the name of Christ that do not in any way, line up with the true message of the Gospel.

  • What is the message of Christianity?

This leads us to another critical point.  If Christians are Christians because they preach the message of Christ and others label them as hypocrites because they preach the message of Christ, but don’t live it, it follows that both the Christian and the accuser must know what the message of Christ really is.  If the “Christian” does not know it, he is not truly a Christian.  If the accuser does not know it, he cannot legitimately accuse the Christian of hypocrisy.

The message or Gospel of Christ and, therefore, true Christians, is often misunderstood.  This in turn, leads to confusion and sometimes, inaccurate accusations of hypocrisy.  There are certain things that the Gospel is and is not.  Establishing these distinctions will provide clarity.

 The Gospel of Christ is not “total tolerance.”

The Gospel is, without a doubt, a message of love and grace.  However, I think this aspect of the Gospel has been interpreted to mean something that it does not.  What the love and grace of Christ does not mean is “total tolerance” in the sense used today.

In today’s world, tolerance means absolute acceptance of anything and everything.  If it makes you happy, it’s right.  Ironically, tolerance claims to welcome any and all beliefs, yet adamantly rejects those who have beliefs that necessarily make other beliefs wrong.  In short, tolerance is intolerant of the intolerant.  To “love” someone and accept them, you cannot make any moral assessments of their life choices.

This is not the love and grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is not love or grace at all.  Grace itself implies that there is a debt to be paid for a wrong committed.  If it is not possible for an act to be wrong, there is no need nor even possibility of grace.

The Gospel of Christ is total forgiveness of and freedom from acts that are inherently sinful. 

What the love and grace of Christ does mean and what the message of Christ really is, is this:

1) There are acts that are inherently wrong (sin).

2) We have all committed such acts (Romans 3:23).

3) Therefore, we deserve death (Romans 6:23).

4) However, Christ died to pay our penalty (Romans 5:8).

5) Thus, if we believe in him, we are justified before God and saved from His wrath (Romans 5:9).

6)  Now, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1.

7) And finally, we are set free from sin and bound to righteousness (Romans 6:18).

In short, the Gospel is that our sin is great, but that God’s love was greater in sending His son to pay our penalty so that we could be freed from sin in order to live lives of holiness.  If the Christian lives a life of utter licentiousness because he can always  “fall back” on the grace of God, he is not truly a Christian.  The crucial point here is that the grace of God is not a ticket to continue sinning as we please without fear of punishment, but a means of forgiveness and empowerment to put our sin to death.

The Gospel of Christ is not self-righteousness but Christ’s righteousness.  

This is where I think things get tricky and where we Christians really do need to listen up.  We are most certainly called to stand for the truth of God.  Contrary to the world’s “tolerance,”  we must be those who claim that certain things are not right, no matter how “happy” it makes someone.  However, we must be careful how we do this.

The important key here is humility.  If we make claims condemning certain acts in a way that exalts ourselves and magnifies our own righteousness, we have missed the mark and misrepresented the message of Christ, no matter how truthful our claims may be.  In defending the truths of God, we must certainly be bold and unyielding, but we must also be humble and meek, not self-exalting, but Christ-exalting.  The crucial point here is that the Christian message is not “Christians are perfect, so be like Christians”, but the Christian message is “Only Christ is perfect, but we strive, and sometimes fail, to be like Him.”

  • So…are Christians hypocrites or not?

This leads us to what we have been trying to answer, the question of whether or not it is true that Christians are hypocrites.  The answer, I think, is yes and no.

First, the answer is no, at least not in the way that many people think.  I think many people accuse Christians of being hypocrites on false grounds.  As established above, the Christian message is not a message of “total tolerance.”  However, many people confuse the Christian claims of love and grace with total tolerance.

To them, it appears inconsistent for the Christian to preach the love of Christ while at the same time, preaching the inherent sinfulness of certain things.  So, they accuse the Christian of hypocrisy.  However, this is a fallacious argument because, as shown above, the love of Christ is not equal to total tolerance.  Thus, it is not inconsistent for the Christian to proclaim that Christ loves the sinner and also claim that the sinner’s sin is really sin.

Secondly, I think the answer is, in a sense, yes.  Christians sometimes are hypocrites. In their sin, they can misrepresent the Gospel for what we have said that it is not, a message that exalts their own, albeit false, righteousness and condemns others for their sin.  We all, to our chagrin, have a little bit of the Pharisee in us.

However, I believe that this in no way discredits the message of Christianity and plan to show why.  This leads us to the second part of the argument.

Claim 2) Because Christians are hypocrites, the Christian message is not true.  

  • This is not a valid conclusion.

In a strictly logical sense, this is in no way a valid conclusion to draw from the premise that Christians are hypocrites.  If it is true that Christians are hypocrites, that is, they don’t always adhere to the message of Christ that they preach, it still remains to be shown how this has any bearing on the actual truth of the message itself.

The smoker will probably say that they believe that smoking causes lung cancer and often, death and that death is something they wish to avoid.  Yet, they continue smoking.  In this sense, the smoker is a hypocrite.  Their actions are not in line with their professed beliefs.  However, this does not in any way change the truth that smoking causes lung cancer and often, death.

In the same way, you cannot logically conclude that because a Christian’s actions do not always line up with their professed beliefs, their professed beliefs are not true.

Furthermore, I would say that we are all guilty of hypocrisy.  Most of us would profess beliefs, Christian or not, that we should live lives of love, goodness, fairness etc.  However, none of us live these beliefs out all the time, every time.  In all of us, there is a divergence from what we wish to do to what we actually do.  Call it sin or not, we all fall short of our own standards.  We are all hypocrites.  To judge people for being hypocritical would be…well, it would be hypocritical.

  • More than Logic. The Heart of the Message.

Logic only gets us so far.  Even though the truth of Christianity may be logically preserved apart from the lives of its followers, it cannot be authentic and powerful without Christians who walk the walk.  Those real Christians are out there, but as I conceded, there will inevitably be times when their walk doesn’t match their talk.  However, in that instance, they are most likely presenting the distorted Gospel of self-righteousness instead of Christ’s righteousness.  As outlined above, this is not the true Gospel.

On the surface, it seems that the fact that Christians make these kind of errors weakens the message of Christianity.  In a sense, it does.  To be sure, it is certainly a hindrance in trying to present the true Gospel to a lost world.  However, in another sense, I think it actually reinforces the message of Christianity.  In falling short as they do, true Christians are showing they are nothing more than what they have professed to be–sinners.  It shows that Christians are merely sinners who have seen their need for the grace of God and though forgiven and justified before God, still have the struggle of flesh against spirit (Romans 7:21-24) and desperately need that grace from day to day.

As Christians, we must keep this in mind.  Ours is a precarious calling.  We are called to condemn sin as sin and yet love sinners as we ourselves have been loved.  We preach a message that is unapologetically offensive as well endlessly loving and we must not compromise either aspects of this message.   We must continually bring ourselves back to the pure Gospel.  If we do, we can, with boldness and yet humility, declare the absolute sinfulness of sin as well as the infinite love and grace of God, using our own stories of utter sin and total forgiveness as witness.  We must humbly admit our own sinfulness that we might exalt Christ’s righteousness.  In this, there can be no hypocrisy.

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14 thoughts on “Are Christians Hypocrites?

  1. ilaangelina says:

    Another well written piece!

  2. greatmom55 says:

    Easy question with short answer. Yes.

  3. A sound logic based argument but I think you are missing the so-called atheist’s true point here. First, they will use any argument to avoid God. This is just one of them. And since they aren’t really interested in hearing the message, they won’t be open to your logical breakdown. They aren’t working from logic and truth to begin with, see? They are in pure attack mode. Pure escape mode. In fact, the very name they give themselves speaks to their lack of reason and their refusal to engage in logic- they claim that they believe that God doesn’t exist. This is not a rational thought process. People don’t claim to not believe things. What an utter use of time. We would be at this all day long, wouldn’t we be? We claim what we believe- a much shorter list. I have never met a more passionate believer in God than a so-called atheist! lol. Back to their statement, “Christians are hypocrites.” When some of them say this, however, I don’t think they mean what you think they mean. I think they mean that some Christians go to church and then go out to bars, smoke pot and curse their heads off. They have affairs, get divorced, and have pre-marital sex. Then, they will turn around and hammer homosexuals and tell them they are going to hell. These really are hypocrites and they hurt our message. But your conclusion is right, they are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. But they know that too.

    When dealing with so-called atheists, reason and logic aren’t the best arguments. You have to get to the heart of the matter. The reality is that they hate the thought of giving up their pleasures. They simply want to live the way they want to live. They detest, I mean, they detest, the idea of the bended knee. Being American doesn’t help in this matter. What is our claim? We won’t bow to any king? Well, isn’t Jesus our king? Americans are proud and don’t want to bow. Our sense of independence is also our downfall. That bended knee, that bowed head- that is the repugnant thing to those who are so desperate to blot the name of God out of every federal building. They cling to the hope that if only his name would disappear, then this certainty of his existence will eventually fade. They hang every promise onto the notion that the only reason they know God exists is that they were somehow brainwashed by their parents and by society and by us mean, crazy and overbearing Christians! If they can just get rid of all evidence of us, the Bible and the name of God and Jesus, then that sure knowledge they feel every day of his existence will fade blissfully away. But it won’t. And they know it.

    It is the bended knee that frightens and repels them. They will make any claim, say any lie, slander any group, claim any claim to make that apparition go away. Your correct and logical breakdown will never be read by them. They weren’t calling us hypocrites because they failed to understand the words. They were just flinging mud and trying to see what stuck. And some of them were actually saying the truth about a large number of our contingent. But even so, it’s not why they say it.

    When we deal with those who run from God, we must be deadly honest with them. They give us very little time to talk before they huff off. We must tell them that they are in danger f losing their life forever. We must ask them if sex is worth dying and losing trillions of years of life. We must tell them that they are missing out on a joy that we have right here, right now- a joy that passes all understanding. That no amount of kinky sex can ever produce. It is a secret they do not know and can not know until they bend that knee. We need to tell them that we know they suffer, we know they feel dark inside, that they are lonely and depleted and that we CARE about that. We need to tell them that we only have moment because we know they will leave, but we care enough to just tell them about Jesus- that he loves them for who they are. And that he will forgive them for everything, anything. Just come to him and he will heal them. No sin is worth dying for. No sin, no pleasure is worth losing your life over. This is what we must squeeze in- no matter what they began the conversation with. IF we can be the better man and squeeze that message in before they flounce off, then we have served the Lord. And maybe that seed will take hold. But logic? no. They won’t hear a word. Susan.

    • greatmom55 says:

      Because you have ALL the answers, right? Congrats and good luck with that, but honestly, I feel nothing but pity for you.

  4. Hi Great Mom. wow. such vitriol! Why such hatred? You feel pity for me? why is that? Are you a Christian? All I can say is that I wrote what I believe and feel that I addressed the point at hand with calm logic and experience. For you to have such anger to me seems inappropriate. I wasn’t trying to a smart aleck- I can assure you.

  5. Oh, I see. You answered above that you believe Christians are hypocrites! lol. That means you are a so-called atheist. I get it now. See, Illuminating Truth? What did I say- she didn’t care one iota about your logical breakdown! Well, Great mom. That is the exact reaction I get from every single so-called atheist. You hate being addressed for the real truth within you. But now you know I know you. You know you believe in God. And at least you have heard the truth. Turn from your rebellion or die. That is your only choice. I love you too much to coddle you.

    • greatmom55 says:

      You, my dear, should seek professional help. Your anger is showing. Pity does not equal hatred, and I don’t believe I ever said I didn’t believe in God, merely that 99.9% of the Christians I know are hypocritical. You don’t know me nor do you love me, but I will say your “turn from your rebellion or die” lecture did make me laugh so thanks for that. However, if you’re going to pontificate, stick to the topic — hypocrisy. Have a fabulous day! 🙂

  6. well, the truth hurts- but you have it nonetheless. As a mother, you should understand that discipline for children does indeed hurt- but if you LOVE them, you will do it. Only selfish mothers are sweet all the time to their children because they want the children to love them. Ironically, the children of these types of mothers end up as run aways and in prison and hate their mothers to death. Love is tough sometimes. So while you don’t feel my love, you have it.

    • greatmom55 says:

      My, my, you’re quite the expert on everything, aren’t you? Let me assure you, Rebel, I do not need your parenting advice. I have raised two wonderful children without stifling them beneath man-made religious dogma. They are compassionate, spiritual and would never speak to anyone using the angry, judgmental tones you utilize. Loving? I think not, but maybe that’s your form of love and if that’s the case, again, sad and I pity you. Some self-examination and introspection would serve you well. Once more, though, have a FABULOUS day! 🙂

      • Jesus said there are dogs and swine and that we must not waste our pearls (ie, time & energy) on them. Sadly, you fall into that category. We are to dust our sandals off at you as a proclamation against you. I do that now. Since you have already raised your children and deliberately raised them against God, then the Bible clearly states that it will be better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for you on the day of judgment. If you don’t repent, you will indeed die and perhaps, even see the fire of hell forever. I’ve never been completely sure if every person will see eternal hell. I am sure that people who reject Jesus will die. But there are some circumstances specifically laid out for those who will not only see the Second Death but will surely see the fires of hell. Most Christians think death/hell are always together- I’m not sure if I’ve seen complete proof of that. I’m not sure what ‘worse than Sodom & Gomorrah’ translates to, but it sounds rather bleak. Jesus knows there are those like you who are hopeless- we have no moral obligation to keep trying with you. You have been given the message loud and clear. You reject it in every way with your eyes wide open. Now you claim to proudly have led your children away from Christ. You’re going to hell, Great Mom.

        Oh, is that ‘unloving’ of me? Well, I know you have heard the ‘soft’ version of this message a thousand times- and look, it didn’t work, didn’t it? I’m just giving it one more try to see if tough love might just turn your stubborn butt around. Good day.

  7. greatmom55 says:

    Thanks for another good laugh. You are so sure you know everything about me, everybody else and life in general, aren’t you? If I’m going to hell, then I’ll surely see you — with your self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude — when I get there. I’ll save you at seat!! :):) PS…if you’re going to “blog,” could you please brush up on grammar and how to write articulately and with cohesion? Use some of your “pearls” for that, okey dokey? Enjoy your day!! Signed, Dog…or maybe I’ll be Swine today….

  8. greatmom55 says:

    Not surprisingly, when faced down with logic and sound thinking, people like Rebel cut and run, using scripture as cover to justify their arrogance and self-righteousness. Typical behavior of narrow minded people who don’t possess the intelligence to understand other points of view.

  9. I’m not in total agreement with you, but this is well written and well reasoned. Nice work.

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