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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

On Christians and Hypocrisy

“Christians are hypocrites.”

When people say it — and they do — they are often thinking of unscrupulous TV evangelist-types whose greed and hypocrisy have been publicly exposed, or perhaps their own bitter personal experience with a person who claimed to be a follower of Christ but acted in a very un-Christlike way.

It is certainly a great shame when people claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus but live lives of self-centredness and prejudice. Often these people make the matter worse by assuming an air of false piety and loudly condemning those who do not match up to their lofty standards of conduct — standards they themselves do not even follow.

Is there a Biblical response to this sort of thing? How should a genuine believer respond?

This kind of behaviour is certainly not to be excused or defended on the grounds that those who do these things call themselves Christians. Rather, any true believer will denounce such a lifestyle and refuse to identify himself with it: “I am writing to you,” the apostle Paul says, “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler — not even to eat with such a one”.

The apostle Peter predicted that hypocrites and false teachers would creep into the church. “There will be false teachers among you ... many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words”. In other words, the Bible fully anticipates the existence of hypocrites and “counterfeit Christians", and even warns against it. The passage in 2 Peter also says that God will judge false teachers very severely for their wickedness.

If people say they are Christians but disobey the Word of God, they are not true examples of Christian life. It is a simple matter to find verses in the Bible which speak against greed, sexual immorality, prejudice, inhospitality, and self-righteous pride, which are not fit for God’s people. But even if those who claim to follow God are faithless, God Himself is perfect: “Let God be true, and every man a liar”. True Christians do not put their faith in man’s goodness — either their own or that of other Christians — but in the perfect righteousness of God.

Nevertheless, if a person is a true disciple of Christ, others will see the character of Christ in him and desire to know how they can have such joy and peace. All the hypocrites in the world cannot diminish the power of the testimony of a real, Christlike believer.

RJA

Republished by permission of the author

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