By: Rianna De Winkle
What exactly is a hypocrite? According to the Oxford English Dictionary Online, A hypocrite is “one who falsely professes to be virtuously or religiously inclined; one who pretends to have feelings or beliefs of a higher order than his real ones; hence generally, a dissembler, pretender”. Acting hypocritical is acting against that which you say you believe. And that is where many Christians get caught. Outsiders can easily see the discrepancy between our walk and our talk and it’s one of the biggest reasons young people don’t join the church anymore as well as one of the biggest reasons why young people leave.
Our generation has grown up inundated with advertising, and honestly, we’ve become jaded. We quickly recognize word games and are sensitive to inconsistent lifestyles. We are naturally wary of other people; our trust has to be earned.
Acting hypocritical is acting against that which you say you believe. And that is where many Christians get caught. Outsiders can easily see the discrepancy between our walk and our talk and it’s one of the biggest reasons young people don’t join the church anymore as well as one of the biggest reasons why young people leave.
How can the church earn our trust if its leaders are hypocrites? How about the pastor who for years, taught baptism by immersion but when a better-paying job came along, taught baptism by sprinkling? What about the abusive husband who taught Bible studies on how husbands should love their wives? Or the women who give “helpful” child-rearing advice to the single mother but never follow their own advice and constantly remind her of her lack of a husband? How does that help us earn people’s trust in the Church?
I’ve pretended for years to be a true Christian. I’ve attended church, youth group, Bible studies and summer camp, all the while knowing that in my heart, Christ wasn’t truly alive. For five years, I have been part of the praise team at my home church, the group that is meant to lead the congregation in worship. I’ve always been under the impression that the worship team is part of the ministry of the church; in order to minister to others, you yourself must have a healthy faith. Of all the times in the past five years that I’ve lead worship, there have been only a few instances in which my faith has been in a place stable enough for me to be an acting leader in the church. I’ve attended Bible studies in which I participated but was really only there to see my friends; my heart wasn’t in it to learn about God. I ended up lying to both myself and the rest of my church.
Did you know that 85 % of young people outside the church think all Christians are hypocrites? Even 50% of young people within the church agree. Are you one of them? I’ll admit that I’ve been a witness to hypocrisy during my years growing up in the church. But I’ll also say this: A lot of our hypocrisy stems from our attempts to appear perfect. We build ourselves up to others so they think we are the paragon of virtue, the best Christians out there, the ultimate example they should follow. We don’t necessarily believe in our hearts everything we say, but we say it because that’s the way it’s always been done. We pretend because we’re too scared to admit to the rest of the world that we are just as messed up as they are.
I think it’s easier for me to be honest about my faults now that I’m away at college. The people in Orange City haven’t known me my entire life like those in my home church. They don’t have certain expectations of me; they didn’t babysit me as a little kid. They don’t know me. If I admit that I’m a screw-up, they won’t be disappointed in me. I’m not saying that being in my home church makes me hypocritical. I’m saying that my fear of what people will think of me has stopped me from being completely honest with them. In some ways, it’s easier to be completely honest with strangers.
I’ll be honest with you though; I still struggle with having a weak faith. I know that the only way to make it stronger is to spend time reading my Bible. But in the midst of classes, homework, music rehearsals, practicing, and work, it’s hard to find time. But I try.
I’ve seen hypocrisy in my life and it’s one of the things that annoys me the most. Because I have these personal feelings about hypocrisy, I am well aware of hypocrisy in others and am very honest about my own faults. I am not a paragon of Christian virtue; I am a sinner. But I am a Child of God. Jesus died on the cross for me. I owe him everything; therefore, I certainly owe him honesty. I will not tarnish God’s name by pretending to be something I’m not. I will not cause others to turn away because my walk doesn’t match my talk. If I cannot keep my faith strong the least I can do is not cause others to stumble. So stop pretending. Be honest about your faults; don’t make excuses. At first people might look at you differently, but eventually they will come to appreciate your honesty. It might be uncomfortable for a while, but everyone will adjust. But don’t back away because you’re scared. In the words of Dr. Beverley Hofstadter, “Buck up, Sissypants.”