One of the blessings of my life is having the opportunity to teach a class at Concordia University, St. Paul about the Bible.
Most of the students are not Christian. And, when I ask them what they think of Christians, most say that Christians are all hypocrites. Usually, people make that claim as an excuse for why they do not attend church; “You won’t catch me stepping foot inside that church with all those hypocrites!”
I used to think that all Christians were hypocrites, too. After all, we want to obey the Word of God and follow Jesus Christ as His disciples, but unfortunately, most of the time, we stumble and fall and look like anything but Jesus. But does that make us hypocrites?
A hypocrite is someone who says one thing, but believes another; someone who pretends to be something he is not. I think the reason that so many wrongly conclude that Christians are hypocrites is because they misunderstand what Christianity is.
They think Christians claim to be perfect, or at least better than other people, and they know from their own experience that their Christian friends and colleagues are far from perfect. Thus, they think all Christians are hypocrites.
But this is not really true of Christians. I don’t know any Christian who claims to be perfect. On the contrary, all true Christians acknowledge and confess that they are poor, miserable sinners who deserve only wrath and punishment from God (both now, on this earth, and later, in eternity).
And what if they don’t believe this? Well, then, according to the Bible, they are not true Christians. The apostle John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8).
True Christians also acknowledge and confess that they completely lack any ability within themselves to atone for their sins or please God in any way. They know and believe that they just simply don’t have the power to be good enough on their own to get to heaven.
But, they also know that God has not left them on their own! That is why He sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to live the perfect life they cannot, and to suffer and die on the cross to pay the full price for all of their sins. Thankfully, through baptism, the Holy Spirit gives them the faith they need to believe in Jesus and receive forgiveness, life, and salvation.
So you see, instead of being hypocrites, they are exactly who they claim to be sinners who need, and thankfully have, a Savior.
I always like to tell people that there is always room for one more sinner in the church. All they have to do is admit their sinfulness and trust solely in Jesus Christ for salvation. If they refuse to acknowledge their sinfulness, thinking that they are a good enough person to get to heaven on their own then, they are the hypocrite.
Our own little congregation loves to have people visit our church. We can’t promise that there are no hypocrites among us, but we can promise you that there are plenty of sinners just like you. And Jesus Christ will always be there, waiting to take away our sins.