Hypocrisy: the behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do: behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.
It’s not news to state that those who despise the Christian church the most typically do so because of the hypocrisy they feel is present within her. Christians themselves, especially those of us from the millennial generation, despise how hypocritical the church can feel at times.
We all know hypocrisy is a problem, but what’s the solution? What’s the cure for hypocrisy?
Brutal Honesty Is the New Attempt at a Cure for Christian Hypocrisy
One attempt at a solution can be labeled as “brutal honesty” and can be seen especially in millennial Christians who have grown up in the church. Tattoos, piercings, and clothes classified as “skinny” are a staple for Sunday morning church attendance less we be mistaken for hypocritical Christians pretending to be “holier than though.” But like a dude driving an obnoxiously large truck, we have to ask ourselves, “Why are we over compensating?”
Holiness was celebrated in previous generations. But often times being “real,” “authentic,” and embracing the unholy rebel within are the new quality traits of our current Christian icons. It seems a mandate that if you want to get on stage with the hip preacher, musician, or newest author, you’ll first have to “bear all” about how you struggle to be like Jesus – otherwise you’re obviously fake.
The tone of it all has the feel of an artistic, independent film that spends a lot of time focusing on odd camera angles and dark, moody scenes with slow piano music setting the vibe. The crowds flock to the communicators who seem to verbalize the cure to hypocrisy we’ve all been looking for, “It’s okay if you’re really messed up, as long as you are also really honest about it, because . . . hey, Jesus loves sinners. Am I right?” Cheers.
Honesty all too often masquerades as holiness. They’re not the same. Honesty is important. But it is not the cure for hypocrisy.
The Honest Truth: Come As You Are . . . Because Jesus Wants to Change You
We all know hypocrisy is a real issue in the church, one that is keeping millions of people away, and for good reason. But this solution packaged in “brutal honesty” has some very real dangers. Honesty is essential for spiritual growth, but honestly alone is no cure for hypocrisy.
To admit in front of a large group of people that you are hypocritical does not change the fact that you are hypocritical. Just being honest about our sins does not do anything to change the condition of our sinfulness. Satan knows he’s Satan, and Satan is surely not going to be saved (James 2:19).
Offering brutal honesty as a cure for hypocrisy can be seen in the most common catch phrase churches use now days to attract millennials, “Come as you are!” This church marketing phrase has done so well because it captures a very important part of Jesus’ message to the world: No matter who you are, what you’ve done, or what you believe, Jesus wants to talk to you.
The danger to the phrase, “Come as you are,” is when we never get to the other part of what Jesus wants to do, which is change you into a holy reflection of his image (Romans 8:29).
As welcoming as Jesus’ invitation sounds to the most jaded of sinners (and it is!), he is not okay with you remaining in your sin, even if you are honest enough to admit you are living in sin.
Let’s be brutally biblical for a moment: Jesus came to earth because he is not okay with who we are without him. Jesus doesn’t love you “for” who you are. Jesus loves you no matter who you are. Make no mistake, Jesus is very open about not accepting your current condition. He wants to change you so bad he literally sacrificed the ultimate price to accomplish the transformation.
As C.S. Lewis said in his book, The Four Loves, “For the Church has not beauty but what the Bride-groom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, lovely.” God doesn’t love us because he sees good in us. He loves us . . . so he puts good in us through the gospel (Romans 5:5-11).
Jesus came to earth to change us, not to celebrate us in our rebellious conditions. Saying slogans like “Come as you are” is not the cure for hypocrisy. It’s a good start. But if Jesus doesn’t change us, we have missed the point of Christianity.
The Cure to Hypocrisy Is the Cure to Every Sin: The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Therefore, the cure for hypocrisy is not being authentic about our sinfulness. That’s a prerequisite to receiving the cure. The cure to hypocrisy is to be authentic about our sinfulness and authentic about the righteousness of Christ that is applied to us when we receive the gospel.
It’s wrong to over emphasize works and rules that cause everyone to live hypocritically. It’s also wrong to over emphasize being honest for honesty sake, because honesty about your failures does nothing to atone for your failures of the past, present, or future. The only cure for every sin, including hypocrisy, is to apply the work of the gospel to your life.
The gospel is the most brutally, completely authentic message ever preached. The gospel recognizes our sinfulness apart from Christ. It openly states the truth about man’s rebellion and God’s great love. It pulls no punches in describing just how bad humans have really messed up, and how eager Jesus is to forgive us. But it doesn’t stop there.
The solution for change, the cure for hypocrisy, is then found in Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life, died a perfect death, and was raised to new life. And when we put our faith in him, the righteous life of Jesus, the purity purchased on the cross, and the new life Jesus attained through the resurrection is then transferred to us through faith by grace (Ephesians 2:8-10). The more deeply we realize and believe that Jesus has justified and transformed us, the more our lives will actually change and begin to look more Christ-like (Romans 6:11-14).
When you come to Christ, you are not transformed into and honest rebel. You are transformed into a righteous son or daughter, totally pure through the work of Christ, learning to embrace this reality each day as you are sanctified in him for the glory of the Father.
Honesty is important, but by itself it doesn’t solve anything, including hypocrisy. Honesty just makes the problem of our sinfulness easier to see because we are not hiding it with fake facades.
But once we see it, Jesus wants us to do something about it. Jesus didn’t come to simply make us honest. He came to make us holy. Jesus came to transform us in such a way that our new identity in him will cause our lives to actually change. Yes we must come as we are, but if we leave the same we haven’t really encountered Jesus. The gospel alone is the cure for hypocrisy.
Transparency and transformation look similar but they are really different, and Jesus always goes after the latter. Hypocrisy truly is a problem in our churches, and brutal honesty is good. But Jesus transforming our hearts is the real cure for hypocrisy.