Responding to “Christians are hypocrites”
Have you ever been in one of those awkward conversations where you find people around you criticising Christians they know for being hypocritical; self-righteous, rude, selfish, greedy, unfair and so forth? How can we respond to others in loving ways when they say that “Christians are hypocrites”?
Before we rush to defend other Christians or distance ourselves from them instead, we may need to consider one thing. God could have placed us right in the middle of such conversations for a purpose – to graciously point people to Jesus.
For a start, there are a few things we can agree on.
1. We agree: Jesus didn’t approve of hypocrites either
Jesus criticised hypocrites harshly and said they are like “whitewashed tombs”. In fact, those whom Jesus labelled as hypocrites sentenced Him to death on a cross, even when He had done nothing wrong. Hypocrites killed Jesus!
Matthew 23:25,27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence… For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.
2. We agree: Christians are called to standards we can never fulfil on our own
Christians are no better than anyone else, we have merely been given a second chance by God through Jesus. Christianity is based on a relationship with Jesus, not on religious works or ideologies. Only God can change us and help us become more godly.
3. We agree: Human beings do not represent the faith well, only Jesus does
Human beings cannot represent Christianity perfectly, only Jesus Christ can. Christians have taken God’s name in vain over and over again, and done many evil things in His name that He would never have approved of. Thankfully, God is a gracious, kind and forgiving Father we can turn to when we make mistakes.
Building bridges for Christ
God’s Word warns us not to be quarrelsome with others but kind, patient and gentle. Intellectual debates about who’s wrong or right will not win people over to Jesus, only love and grace will. Our words can either bring people one step closer to knowing Jesus for themselves, or push them further away. Let us consider how to honour others and glorify Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
1. Check our hearts for judgment, self-righteousness and religiosity
In an effort to defend our faith, we may come across as self-righteous and lacking understanding. The Bible says that we are not to judge those outside the church (non-Christians) but to judge fellow believers. Therefore let us rid our hearts of any judgement or religiosity, and speak out of hearts of love and grace for those who do not yet know Jesus personally.
Matthew 15:18 ESV But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
1 Corinthians 5:12 ESV For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?
2. Seek to build connections with gentleness and respect
As shown above, we can certainly find areas that we agree on when others point out the hypocrisy in Christians. Before we react spontaneously, it might be a good idea to be still and ask the Holy Spirit to guide our responses and to command Satan to stop blinding the minds of our friends in Jesus’ name.
Luke 12:12 ESV for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
Gently ask questions to understand why they accuse Christians of being hypocrites. At the same time, listen well and do not rush to speak. Acknowledge their views and agree on any hypocritical behaviour that Jesus would also not approve of. This is the perfect point to start to share about how Jesus lived while he was on earth – and the reason for our faith!
James 1:19 ESV Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
1 Peter 3:14-15 ESV … Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
3. Apologise on behalf of our brothers and sisters
Next, we can represent Jesus’ grace and say sorry for the poor example that fellow Christians have set for Jesus.
4. Share our testimony
Testimonies open people’s eyes to how God still works today. Many people see Christianity as outdated and out of touch, so let us boldly testify of what God has done and how He has changed us – and is still changing us.
Psalm 40:3 ESV He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
5. Point to Jesus as the perfect example
Depending on the responses we get, we can then decide on whether we should simply end our conversations here or earlier. But if God prompts us to invite people to find out more about Him, we can ask if they would be interested in visiting a church together with us. Even if they strongly refuse us, we can take heart that we have already planted a seed that God will bring to harvest one day.
1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
May our lives be the light for others where other Christians may have failed. Praise God that He can redeem any situation if we allow Him to work through us.
Matthew 5:14 ESV “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
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