Hypocrisy in the Church (2)


hypocrisy the Church

Hypocrisy in the Church (2)

28 October 2009 Hits:4033

One reason for the “hypocrite” tag is the way in which the Christian message has been promoted and taught over the years – predominantly as a religion of rules and regulations that even Christians can’t live up to.  People then measure us by our own standards – which we don’t fully keep – and then label us as hypocrites.  Jesus spoke about this: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.  So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:2-3)

There is an underlying belief, even amongst many Christians, that one can be saved by being and doing good – that is, by keeping the Ten Commandments.  But what does the New Testament say about the Ten Commandments?

In 2 Corinthians 3, the apostle Paul refers to them as “the ministry that brought death” and “the ministry that condemns men.”  Why?  The Law was never meant to be a way of salvation.  It was introduced in order to make us aware that, in our own efforts, we cannot attain the standard of God’s perfection.  Paul puts it this way, “Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” (Romans 7:9).  That’s why he refers to the Law as “the ministry that brought death.”

The Law is like the black cloth that jewellers use to display their gems.  The black shows up the beauty and value of the gem in the same way that the blackness of the Law shows up the beauty and value of God’s grace.  The church was never meant to preach the Law as a standard for the world to follow – we don’t even live up to it ourselves, and this leads to accusations of hypocrisy

In his book Unchristian, David Kinnaman says, “Christians believe the primary reason outsiders have rejected Christ is that they cannot handle the rigorous standards of following Christ.  The unchristian faith – hypocritical, judgmental and full of empty moral striving – is what Paul warned his readers about.”  (See Galatians 3:3; 5:1, 13-15)

No one can live up to the “Christian image” of being good and not sinning. As a result because of the “wrong message” many Christians feel the need to project an image of “having it all together.  It’s at this point that hypocrisy is perceived.

The solution is radical transparency.  The Bible teaches that we will not attain perfection in this life.  We need to be honest and transparent about this.  God calls us to be authentic people – the real deal – not pretending to be something that we’re not:  “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Does your life point people to a life in Christ that bursts with the freedom to love, restoration, purity and transparency?  Or are you burying people under the weight of a self-righteous life?

I love the way Leo Tolstoy articulates this: “Attack me, I do this myself, but attack me rather than the path I follow and which I point out to anyone who asks me where I think it lies.  If I know the way home and am walking along it drunkenly, is it any less the right way because I am staggering from side to side?”

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Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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5 replies on “Hypocrisy in the Church (2)”


Hi Rob,

It’s interesting that you should write this post as I was reflecting on this theme during the week and my thoughts turned to the book of Acts when the first council came to the conclusion that the only commandments they should apply to the Gentile believers was to “Abstain from food offered to idols, from the meat of strangled animals, from sexual immorality and blood.”

That’s a very light burden to bear, compared to the myriad of rules and regulations set forth by the law, or by many modern day churches. How lovely it would be if everyone could go back to these basics.


Clarissa Seamersays:

Dear Rob,
Thank you so much for your latest messages on ‘True Christianity”. I have found them confronting and challenging and that was exactely what I needed. I grew up in a community that would not accept homosexuality at all!! I am still struggling with the concept as I ask myself: would I, one day, be happy to be part of a Church where the pastor might be gay? I can’t answer this question yet, but I am working on my acceptance issue. I also thought that the issue of forgiving people who sexually abuse children could be addressed at some stage. I am a mother myself and whenever I think of child abuse I get very angry. How should I address this issue and how can I get rid of my fears?

Rob Buckinghamsays:

Hi Clarissa. Thank you for your honest response. I’m pleased that my message has encouraged you to start working on your level of acceptance of others. On the question of sexual abuse and forgiveness. I think it’s important to understand what forgiveness is. It is the act of relinquishing your right to get even with, or to exact punishment on, someone who has caused you hurt. Forgiveness is not forgetting, and it is not a soft emotion that causes you to put yourself back into a situation of hurt. Sexual abuse of children is a horrible crime. As a father of little children I do my very best to make sure I protect them from anyone who would hurt or abuse them. I too feel very angry towards those who hurt children in any way. This is a righteous anger that God feels too. Jesus said, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” ( Matthew 18:6). I agree! Rob

Rob Buckinghamsays:

Hi Meg,

I totally agree. We would do well to remember the words Jesus said to those who were burdened by a heavy, legalistic religious system – Matt 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


Dear Rob,

I ended up here because @fatherdave started following me on Twitter. Curious about the content of his feed, I glanced at it and there was a link to your sermon on accepting the GLBT community into the church.

It’s been a number of years since I left the church that I grew up in, located in Houston Texas. It was a traumatic experience related to my relationship with my transgendered partner; in essence, I no longer felt at home in the congregation I had grown up considering a family because they were unable to accept me as I was. You and many others have said it best – who would [i]choose[/i] to live a life like this, that’s looked upon so poorly by so many people? For 5 or 6 years, I haven’t stepped foot in a church. Not out of lack of love for God, but out of fear of what I might encounter, out of fear of being rejected from another family.

As I sat here listening to your sermon, I felt the love and acceptance that had so long been missing from my interactions with the church. Though it’s highly unlikely that I’d ever be able to attend your congregation (and that’s a true pity!) I wanted to contact you and thank you in the only way I could. In a time filled with voices like the Westboro Baptist Church, it’s a rare and true pleasure to hear a message that rings as true as yours does.

More than anything, thank you for reminding me that there are indeed churches out there who really do offer a message of unconditional love to the world.

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