Winston Churchill once wrote, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Can there be a parallel truth for contemporary Christians: Christians are the worst people except for other people from time to time?
Churchill’s comment suggests democracy has its setbacks and weaknesses. They are most amplified when imperfect leaders take office. Though not a political system, Christianity is not excluded from poor representation.
In our liberal and secularized culture, many have labeled Christianity a hypocritical religion, and many who profess to be Christian have left the faith for the same reason. Christianity Today wrote “A new report from Barna Group indicates that most of today's Christians are more like the Pharisees than Jesus,” and a writer from liberal American news commentator Huffington Post emphatically detailed her desire to leave Christianity for what she saw as hypocrisy in the church.
But Christianity cannot be dismissed simply due to this connotation.
In their book Answers to Tough Questions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart point to the fact that followers of Christ do not determine His teachings:
People can and do enter the ministry for the wrong reasons, or they can compromise the convictions of the faith. When people do this they are wrong, and the Bible denounces this clearly. Christianity does not stand or fall on the way Christians have acted throughout history or are acting today. Christianity stands or falls on the person of Jesus, and Jesus was not a hypocrite. He lived consistently with what He taught, and at the end of His life He challenged those who had lived with Him night and day, for over three years, to point out any hypocrisy in Him. His disciples were silent because there was none. Since Christianity depends on Jesus, it is incorrect to try to invalidate the Christian faith by pointing to horrible things done in the name of Christianity.
The non-believer cannot be excused from believing just because it is possible to point to those who simply pretend to be what they are not. Hypocritical Christians cannot be excused on the basis of not being perfect because of the terrible effects hypocrisy has.
But Christianity has a one-up on secularism.
Christianity is not relative, but absolute. We have a Source where we draw our beliefs, and we have absolute standards due to that. We can differentiate between good and bad, right and wrong because we have an Absolute Source to compare our standards to. Secularists do not.
C.S. Lewis noted in his iconic writing Mere Christianity, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”
Many liberals and secularists can just as well be labeled hypocrites. So crucially to the point of absolutism, secularists have no standards other than what they conceive on their own. Secularists live in a relativistic world, what is true for one person is not necessarily true for the next. Liberalism as a philosophy is filled with hypocritical messages, campaigns, and ideas due to a lack of absolutism. Christianity does not bear the same setback. Though some minor ideas between Christians may vary, every true Christian holds to the core beliefs of what it means to be a Christian. By definition, if someone does not, they are not a Christian. This is why Christ so emphatically warns believers of those who come, claiming to be a follower but show no signs of being one. He calls them false prophets and says we can identify a true Christian by his actions (Matthew 7:15-16).
Flamboyant hypocrites of the Christian faith are probably not Christians themselves, but rather a “lukewarm Christian” (Revelation 3:16), one who is a Christian in name only.
Christianity is not a hypocritical religion, and nor should it be thought as one because of those who pervert it.
As one advertisement campaign read:
For 2,000 years Jesus has been judged by how well His followers have imitated Him, and sometimes they've made a terrible mess. Even the best of His followers have lived lifestyles of Jesus imperfectly. And that's given people a reason not to follow Jesus themselves. You may be one of those.
You've seen they hypocrites and the confusing divisions. There have been so many wrongs done in the name of Christ, and you may have been personally wounded by a Christian, but none of that was from Jesus. Jesus said, "Follow Me." He didn't say, “Follow my followers, my leaders, or my religion.” Jesus died in your place for all of your sins. He rose from the dead and offers you forgiveness and eternal life.
If your trust is in anything other than Jesus, you are hanging on to something that will simply not save you; only Jesus can do that. Will you follow Jesus?