Rob Buckingham's Blog

Hypocrisy in the Church (2)

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 to 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 jewelers 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 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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