A very common accusation made against Christians is that they are such horrible hypocrites, why cannot they just be honest and allow everyone to peacefully life in their own ideas of morality. Of course, who is a hypocrite actually depends on how you define the word. I am afraid most people who make this accusation are not even attempting to use it as anything other than an insult. These people we will ignore, why defend yourself against the charge of being a poopy-head?
However there are people who legitimately believe that Christian, and anyone who believes in an objective morality, are hypocrites, and who say it, not as an insult to distract but as a legitimate objection. After all, a hypocrite is a liar and a cheat, if only they were honest. For all these people there are two actual definitions of the word that are useful. (This is from Merriam- Webster online, from mostly memory.) 1. A person who pretends to be virtuous or religious and is really not, and 2. A person who acts in contradiction to his stated beliefs.
Most people who argue against Christianity in this vein mean definition number two, however it is not impossible for someone to believe that every single Christian who has ever lived was just pretending. But, since someone who believes that no one actually believes Christianity (despite the thousands and perhaps even millions who have died rather than stop ‘pretending’) cannot be convinced it is useless to try.
However, the last point, that Christians act in contradiction to their beliefs is true. This accusation is thrown around as if a grand discovery by atheists, but most pastor and priests, most theologians through history, the Church fathers, and St. Paul all could have told him this was the case. The accusation ‘you don’t practice what you preach!’ is an uninformed outside view of Christianity. Of course we do not practice what we preach. That we cannot practice what we preach is the central message of what we call the ‘Law’ which convicts us of our sins and points out our need for a savior. That every week Christians are beset by temptations, and commit sins, even horrible and vile sins, is no surprise to Christians.
We preach that God requires perfection, not some Olympic judge’s idea of perfection, but real perfection: perfection in thought, word, and deed. So, we expect every single Christian to be a hypocrite in the second definition. That is why we need salvation from Jesus Christ who was perfection for us.
And so, to those who say ‘At least I am not a hypocrite.’ Or ‘At least he’s honest.’ I have one thing to say: ‘At least I am a hypocrite!’ (I am also honest about the fact that I am sinful. But that is not what people mean when they say ‘At least he’s honest.’) At least I have a rule to live by!
This all reminds me of the different way that politicians get treated depending on their party affiliation. If a democrat has a male prostitution ring busted in his basement, or abandons a drunk girl to drown in his car , or has sex with the interns (you know that one), the reaction is entirely different that if a Republican is caught in a sex scandal. The republican gets ostracized by society, the democrat (for occasionally much worse things.) end up being respected members of their caucus. The entire difference is that somehow, being a hypocrite definition #2 has become one of the worst crimes in many people’s minds rather than the natural states of everyone who tries to be better than they are. Ultimately, every human being is sinful, every human being does bad things, and some try to do better and tell others they should try to do better… and they are hypocrites.
Christians preach about what people should do for two reasons: the secondary reason is to guide them in their lives of faith into being better people, the second and most important reason is to remind everyone that they need Jesus Christ, his death and his resurrection to be perfection for them.
This great article is related to the idea of perfection and salvation and titled: Should we stone abortion clinicians?
Everyone needs reconciliation. Tough guys are victims too. Bullies, gang bangers, drug dealers, prostitutes, murderers – they are hurting and empty inside. They are enslaved to their desires.They need serious healing. We tend to overlook their need for redemption, and only wish swift justice upon them. Such desire for justice is good, but not at the expense of mercy. They too can be saved – look at Mary Magdalene or the good thief on the Cross or Saul or Augustine the playboy or Giles the Satanist or Vladimir the rapist and practitioner of human sacrifice – they all have one thing in common: Conversion. And now their names begin with 2 special letters: St. They became saints. That’s the power of the gospel for sinners – it makes them saints. Why the complaining? Why the qualifications? Don’t be a Donatist. Instead, hear the words of Jesus, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”