You may have heard it said, the Church is not a building, it is a people. That is the definition I’m using here – Church, meaning the global community of Christ followers.
Dictionary.com says that hypocrisy is: “pretending to be what you are not, or pretending to believe something that you do not.”
Example: A person who claims to be gluten-free then eats wheat bread is a hypocrite.
One of the most common accusations we face when we hold fast to God’s Word is that Christians are hypocrites. Those who say this mean that Christians pretend to be perfect, while sinning. Our accusers see us as judgmental and fake. They think Christians believe we are better than other people who sin.
Let me tell you the truth:
All Christians are sinners, and we will be sinners until we get to heaven. That’s why we need Jesus.
If you fail to follow Jesus’ instruction, you sin. You gave in and performed a sinful act or had sinful thoughts. As long as you don’t pretend that you did not sin, you admit your failure and repent wholeheartedly to God, that sin has been paid for by Christ so that you will be forgiven, purified, made clean. You can resume your life with confidence, loving people and living for Christ. You are not pretending to be something you are not or pretending to believe what you do not, as is the definition of a hypocrite.
But some Christians are hypocrites. They speak against sinning, then habitually sin with no remorse. They accuse and reprimand others, when they lead the very life they claim to hate. Or, they profess to be Christian, then don’t seek to live according to biblical principles. I have been hypocritical about many things, inside and outside of my faith, but I try not to be. My desire is to live a life of truth.
Christians sometimes willfully rebel against what we know is right. We don’t have to hand in our Christian Card when this happens. It is important, however, for us to recognize when we begin moving farther and farther from what is good and pure and just and right – Christ.
Paul was not a hypocritical Christian. He admits how he feels about his sinful desires in Romans 17: 15-20 (NIV), and I know I’ve felt the exact same way:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Break It Down
Go refill your coffee and grab your journal. We’re going to break down the Word, line by line.
I have a hard time understanding Paul’s words on the first read. I have to go back and re-read it a few times, digesting each segment, to really grasp what he’s trying to say. I’ve found that inserting a particular sin into the passage helps me understand it better.
Let’s do that here, with the sin of gossip:
I do not understand what I do.
This is pretty straightforward. I don’t understand why I gossip.
For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
I want to encourage and speak good about people, but sometimes I gossip instead.
And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
I know that when I gossip, I’m breaking God’s good laws. I know what I’m doing is wrong, sinful.
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
It’s like sin consumes me and gossip pours out of my mouth.
For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
I’m not perfect. I’m prone to sin, and that’s so obvious when I gossip.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
I try not to gossip, but then I find myself doing it again. There I am, talking about someone else when they aren’t present.
For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
I continue to gossip though I know it’s wrong, and I really do not want to sin.
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Because I love Christ and follow him, when I gossip I know that I’m giving in to sin and my sinful human nature.