What a bunch of hypocrites. That’s a sentence I started out with once when preaching to the teens at my church. I got some odd looks for sure. I admit, it was for some shock value, but it also helped to gain their attention. At the very least, it was unexpected.
Many people throw that word around without any idea of what it really means. They think they know what it means, but in reality, they don’t have a genuine grasp of it. The origin of the word refers to “a stage actor”. One who pretends to be someone they are not. So basically, all our famed Hollywood actors are hypocrites. They pretend to be people they are not on a daily basis and get paid millions of dollars to do so. We pay to see them do it each time we go to a movie. We pay people to be actual hypocrites.
The world doesn’t see it that way. They are highly praised for their ability to transform into the character they are supposed to be portraying on screen, not mocked and scolded for acting like something or someone they are not. They are given awards by their peers and groups that deem them worthy. Millions of people basically worship these charlatans.
Look, I am not anti-movies. I enjoy a good super hero flick like the next guy. I get into action movies and the like. I find myself yelling at the characters on screen (when I’m at home) because they are walking into a trap. I’ve cried, rather I had something in my eye, near the end of The Return of the King when Aragorn tells the Hobbits, “My friends, you bow to no one.” Just thinking about it gives me the chills. If that scene doesn’t choke you up, then you are cold-hearted and we can’t be friends. Yet it’s all a sham. Fake. Every bit of it.
Even movies that are based on true events still embellish things to make them more emotional or entertaining. I think every movie my wife and I have watched that was based on true events, I always say to her after its over, “I wonder how much of that actually happened.” We want to believe it all happened because it was a good movie.
Emotions are so volatile, aren’t they? Think about it…these people are rich beyond our comprehension because they can manipulate our emotions. Honestly though, that’s the mark of a good actor/actress. They can, temporarily, make us believe that they are someone else…and we love them for it.
It’s not that way for Christians is it. The world sees us at church on Sunday and/or Wednesday, and then if we act or do something slightly less than Jesus-like, we are the ones deemed as hypocrites. We are the ones deemed as fakes. If we don’t live up to what their expectations are, then we are nothing less than frauds using religion as a crutch. Is it true? Are we hypocrites? We sure can be and there are millions out there I’m sure who are. However, as the old adage goes, one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
The real problem with the way Christians are viewed by others and themselves, is that there is no comprehension as to who we really are. Are we sinners or saints?
The standard answer by far too many Christians would be, “I’m just an old sinner saved by grace.” There in lies the problem: the self-identification of still being sinner. For a real Christian, you were an old sinner. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” This is a very simple concept with very deep contextual meaning. Without digging too deep, when you believe on Jesus (as stated in Romans 10:9) you are now in Christ. When you are in Christ, your old self – it’s ways, desires, etc. are passed away. They have perished, they are no more. You are now something new – unprecedented, fresh, recently made. That means you are no longer a “sinner”. You are now a saint.
For far too many Christians, the concept of being a saint is completely asinine and incomprehensible. Yet who did Paul refer to as saints in scriptures? Average Christians. Almost every time he begins one of his writings to a church, he refers to those people as saints. In general, Christians are referred to as saints many other times as well. Sainthood is not something waiting for a select group of people as some religions would have you to believe. It is something a Christian is here and now, despite what they act like.
The image that God sees you as, is who you really are. It doesn’t matter how you “self-identify”. A Christian is a saint, not a sinner. Do we still sin? Sure. Everyone does and we’ll continue doing so until we die or Jesus comes again. However, sinning does not make a Christian a sinner. Our actions do not dictate who we are. Our beliefs do. How? Glad you asked. The key lies in John 16.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
These are prophetic words that Jesus spoke referring to the time period post-ascension. (Notice I didn’t say post-Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was originally given as the “born-again” experience to the disciples right before Jesus ascended up into Heaven. It was the baptism of the Holy Spirit that was given at Pentecost.) Although reprove is normally seen as a negative thing, here it also has positive connotations. Jesus tells us the Holy Spirit will reprove (also meaning convict) the world, referring to the inhabitants, of three things: sin, righteousness, and judgment.
The only sin people are truly guilty of now is not believing on Jesus. The scriptures tell us that Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world. He was literally punished for every single person who has and will ever sin. Your actions are no longer the problem, your beliefs are. However, what I really want to focus on is that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would also reprove the world of righteousness. He would find people guilty of being righteous. How? Because He (Jesus) ascended up to Heaven. He even told His disciples that if He didn’t go away, the Comforter would not come. Who are the recipients of the Comforter – the Holy Spirit? Those who believe on Jesus, a.k.a. Christians.
If then, we continue to follow logic, if Christians are now found to be righteous (not due to their physical actions), how then can they still be “sinners”? Answer: they can’t. Again, will we still sin? Yep. It would be impossible for us not to. Yet that doesn’t change who we really are. If your belief in Jesus had never changed, then your position with God hasn’t changed either.
Many years ago, I had an experience with God that transformed my life. When it happened, it was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes, and I saw for the first time, how I was really living. At the time, I didn’t understand what had happened, but when I was questioned by my then best friend, the only words I could muster for him was, “Something has to change.” I knew something was different inside, but I couldn’t figure out what. So I started reading my Bible. No one told me to, I just figured that what I should do. Eventually, the thought came to me that I should probably go to church. So I did. Again, no one told me to. It just “seemed” like the right thing to do.
I would imagine that people would say that’s when I was born again. It wasn’t. However, I got to the point that I was convinced that if I would’ve died previous to that, I would’ve ended up in hell. And that’s exactly what I was telling people. Then one night I was lying in my room thinking about the goodness of God and I had a revelation. God showed me that I had been born again at a very young age. I actually do remember the moment it happened. Nothing really spectacular happened, but I just remember believing – really believing – that Jesus was raised from the dead. It was something that I never stopped believing. Even the worst moments of my life, I always knew He was there. Anyway, at that moment, God showed me that I was wrong. I wouldn’t have ended up in hell because I never stopped believing.
I can imagine what some people would think about that. You’d accuse me of heresy. You’d say I’m giving people a license to sin. People don’t need a license to sin. They’re sinning just the same without it. You could take that and say that it doesn’t matter how you live. Well, it does actually. Even though my actions didn’t dictate my eternal destination, my life would’ve been considerably less miserable had I lived differently. Besides, if you really want to take that concept and say that you can live like the devil and still go to heaven, I question your salvation. If you really have an understanding of what that means, you won’t want to go out and sin. I didn’t live like I did because I knew I was going to heaven and I wanted to get away with as much as I could. I’ll say it again – if that’s your mentality, then question your salvation.
Is Jesus supposed to be our example? Yes. We are supposed to strive to be as our Master. Even Paul told the church at Corinth that they should follow him, as he follows Christ. One of the definitions of “as” is described “to the same degree”. Paul did not expect the Corinthians to follow him unless he was modeling Jesus. Were there times that Paul didn’t live up to Christ-like perfection? I guarantee it, and that’s not taking into account his past life before his encounter with Jesus. Paul was a human like us. He struggled with the same temptations as we do, as Jesus did. We may have no recorded history as to his failures post-conversion, but to think that he lived perfect after Damascus is delusional.
That being said, as I mentioned at the beginning, a hypocrite is someone who acts like someone they are not. A real Christian who acts like a sinner is being a hypocrite. Yet it’s when we attempt to act holy, that’s when people accuse us of being hypocrites. I was acting like a hypocrite for well over a decade before I got the revelation of who I really was. Since then, I’ve attempted to act as the person I know God has created me to be. Have I done that perfectly? Nope. Will I ever? Nope, and neither will anyone else. But that doesn’t change who we are and Who we need to be like.
I guess it’s not too far off when people accuse Christians of being hypocrites. We certainly do fill the role well sometimes. They just tend to call us that at the wrong times. It’s a good thing that God sees us like He does and loves us despite ourselves.