The Real Reason Christians Are Called Hypocrites
Do you know why Christians are often called hypocrites?
Is it because we’re two-faced liars? Is it because we teach the wrong gospel message? As a believer it really hurts to be labeled across the board as “a bunch of hypocrites” but I have to be honest and say I can’t blame people for thinking about us this way, but I’m betting many of you don’t really understand why we are labeled this way.
I’m guessing that a lot of people think the term ‘hypocrite’ is a result of saying we are believers and then living a different lifestyle, and if so I hope to illustrate that there’s actually another-deeper reason, and it doesn’t have a thing to do with our behavior. But first, let me avoid confusion and/or legalistic attacks, and let me start by working backward.
I firmly believe that Christians should live a life that honors God and reveals the truth about our new identities in Christ. We should exude love, kindness, and patience. We should do our best to avoid sin, and live upright godly lives. But the real reason we should do these things is that sin and lawlessness will never fulfill us (contrary to what religion says, i.e. teaching that Christians still want to sin). The old you has passed, and the new has come – complete with a new heart, a new spirit, and new desires. What I’m saying is this – you actually have to go against your new nature to sin. You’re not a dirty sinner trying to be holy, but rather you are a holy, sanctified, righteous person trying to avoid the deceit of sin.
Your new nature is good. You are dead to sin, but unfortunately, sin is still very much alive and seeks to lead us astray whenever it can. Nonetheless, sin does not originate from the believer’s heart, mind, or soul. Sin originates from an external source, but if feels like it’s part of us because our minds have the thoughts.
So why are some of the best-behaving Christians called ‘hypocrites’? The reason might surprise you because the reason is actually a result of how we teach what Christianity is at its core. Ask any unbeliever who has never (or rarely) been to church what they think the church is all about and you hear two things over and over again.
- Rules – Behavior Improvement
- Money – specifically the taking of
Heck, many Christians think that’s what Christianity is all about. And therein lies the problem. We are guilty of causing unbelievers to totally miss what it means to be a Christian. They think it’s about human performance when it’s about grace. As said previously we should strive to live upright godly lives, but Christianity is not about perfect human performance, but rather it’s about imperfect human performance and children of God who receives unmerited/unlimited grace and forgiveness totally apart from what we do, and 100% according to what we believe – specifically as it applies to the identity of Jesus Christ.
We can’t run around looking down our noses at everyone as we pound our chest as if to say “Look at my performance – you stink, and I’m so awesome”. As sure as the sun will rise, you will stumble many times (see James 3:2), and when you do you’ll be called a hypocrite, and with good reason, because if Christianity is about perfect human performance then every one of us is in fact lying hypocrites.
It’s time we start correcting the message of what it means to be a Christian. Unbelievers would never call us hypocrites if we stop boasting about ourselves and started bragging more about Jesus (see Ephesians 2:8-9). So, if showing off our performance isn’t the answer, then what is? While living out who we are IS IMPORTANT, at its core the answer is not in what we do, but rather in what we teach about what it means to be a Christian. Specifically, how we get saved, and what keeps us that way. Every human on earth has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Every human has the same problem (sin / spiritual deadness), and the answer is not improved behavior (never has been, and never will be). We all need the exact same solution, and that’s Jesus Christ, who, through faith gives us new life, apart from works and apart from law. The gospel doesn’t change after we get saved. Even as believers we all struggle with sin (some more than others), but our righteousness/holiness/sanctification/redemption doesn’t have a darn thing to do with our behavior. There’s not a single verse that teaches this nonsense.
As a believer, our status never changes, and while I’m not condoning a life of sin, you can’t out sin the grace of God, because as sin increases then grace abounds all the more (Rom 5:20). There’s nothing we can ‘do’ to earn more forgiveness because we have all the forgiveness we will ever need. There’s nothing we can do to get closer to God because now He lives in us, and promises He will never leave us (Heb 13:5), and he even goes as far as to say that when we are faithless He will remain faithful (2 Tim 2:13).
Guess who Jesus called hypocrites in the book of Matthew? The teachers of the law were the hypocrites. The Pharisees were all about showing off their human performance and their ‘outward’ appearance and they didn’t understand what they needed was to be washed internally, which could ONLY be done through faith in Jesus. You see, we get saved by faith, and then religion comes behind with a pinch of Jesus and two cups of behavior improvement sermons, and suddenly we teach the wrong message and become hypocrites of our words. We need to always remember that the same faith that saved us is also what makes us right with God going forward. Righteousness, holiness, and okayness with God is never about our works or ability to avoid sin.
I make it clear that my forgiveness of sin and okayness with God is a product of perfect blood that was shed as full payment. And yes, I believe that payment on the cross was enough and that NO SINS are being held against me, not now and not on judgment day. My works are not helping Jesus in the propitiation of sins. Jesus gets all the credit. I make it clear that, though I try to live out my Christian identity, I am human and I stumble in many ways. I tell others there’s nothing about me to be impressed about, so don’t look at my performance because I’m not bragging. I tell them that the only thing I brag about is Jesus. In comparison, the sins of the world are little, and Jesus is big. That’s right – the big deal is not your sin. The big deal is what Jesus did about them. Gone. Washed away. Forgiven. Off the record books. Never to be remembered again.
Takeaway: If we can all admit that we all struggle and all we did was brag about Jesus then who could call us hypocrites? By all means, let’s allow Jesus to live through us and show off ‘His fruits’, but remember that it’s one thing to live out our identity (or encourage others to do it), and it’s something totally different when we teach that our performance is somehow getting us more forgiveness or making us closer to God.
1 Cor 11 And that is what some of you were……….
……But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
The cool thing is that our identity is no longer wrapped up in what we do. Our identity is not what’s on the outside, but rather what’s in the inside. Jesus.
Let’s make sure we’re not found as hypocrites. Let’s give all the credit to Jesus (even on our best performing days)
Author: Mike Cynar
Mike Cynar was raised in a church setting where he frequently noticed that many attendees would eventually drift away. The church labeled these individuals as ‘back sliders’ or ‘fake Christians’ just looking for ‘fire insurance’. However, Mike realized the issue was rarely with these individuals but instead with the church’s message itself. The teachings heavily emphasized behavior improvement and one’s flaws, with only a fleeting mention of one’s identity in Christ. It felt as though every sermon was tailored to the church of Corinth, who as we know or committing sins that even unbelievers don’t partake in. This trend was noticeable not just in one denomination, but across Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and many other churches. Upon understanding the true essence of the gospel – that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ actions, not our own – Mike was inspired to liberate believers from lifeless sermons and reconnect them with the genuine teachings of Jesus. He believes that one can nurture a vibrant and growing bond with Jesus, unhindered by rigid religious practices. And thus, “Jesus Without Religion” was born.
It turns out that it is grace that leads to repentance. And if our heart is to get others to walk in the Spirit and live a godly life, then the best approach is not a beat down sermon, but rather to remind other that it is only when we understand our true identity in Christ that we will live it out. Yes, it’s true, if you’re convinced that God thinks you’re a dirty sinner, you will ultimately continue a lifestyle that mirrors that view, but if you truly believe that even on your worst day, you are called holy, sanctified, justified, and will be presented blameless in the end, well, it turns out this is the secret to living out on the outside what has been worked in to the inside.