Question: I have tried to discuss my faith with people and have also invited people to visit church. One of the most common objections I hear is this: “The church is filled with hypocrites!” How should I respond?
As to the question of whether or not the church is filled with hypocrites, my first inclination is to agree. After all, hypocrisy is a very common sin and every church is filled with sinners.
Paul made this fact painfully clear in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you…” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Mark well that final phrase: “And such were some of you.” When an unbeliever points out our sin, we should not be quick to deny it. Rather, let us remember what Jesus said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Mark 2:17)
If Jesus came for people who are sick with sin, then it is perfectly appropriate to think of his church as something of a hospital for sin-sick souls.
Here’s the problem: Church-goers sometimes act and speak as if they were not only well, but even better than everyone else. I personally don’t mind this kind of hypocrisy being rebuked by unbelievers because Jesus himself rebuked it.
We probably need to explain all this to people. Perhaps our response should simply be, “The church is filled with hypocrites? I’m not sure what you mean by that, but may I share with you what the Bible says about hypocrisy?”
Here is a brief word study and some passages to help: Our English word ‘Hypocrite’ is a transliteration of a Greek word pronounced hoop-o-cree-tays.
In its ancient usage, this word was used to describe the ‘play-actors’ or ‘pretenders’ of the theatre who wore a mask in order to appear as someone they were not. Jesus forever changed the usage of this word by applying it to those who wear a mask of piety on the outside, but who are actually haters of God on the inside (c.f., Matthew 6:5, 6:16, 7:5, 15:7, 16:13, 22:18, 23:13ff; Luke 13:15, etc.).
So – Is the church filled with hypocrites? Kind of. It is filled with hypocrites who have been convicted of their hypocrisy, repented of their hypocrisy, been forgiven of their hypocrisy, are now endeavoring to become less hypocritical, and who are honest about their continued struggle with hypocrisy.
Now I don’t know about you, but a church filled with those kind of hypocrites is the kind of church I wouldn’t mind visiting.