Hi, my name is Shane and I am a hypocrite. At least that is how the average outsider would see me according to David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, authors of the book UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity… And Why It Matters.
On the left is a picture of a couple that had become synonymous with hypocrisy during the rash of televangelist scandals in the 1980s – Jim and Tammy Faye Baker. All Christians at that point were lumped into that category. I was an outsider at the time myself, and I thought that of Christians as well. An outsider’s perception of Christians has not changed much.
The perception is that Christians say one thing but live something completely different. Victoria, a 24-year-old single mom was one who was interviewed by the authors. She said:
Everyone in my church gave me advice about how to raise my son, but a lot of the time they seemed to be reminding me that I have no husband – and besides, most of them were not following their own advice. It made it hard to care what they said. They were not practicing what they preached.
In the mind of an outsider a hypocrite is someone who is two-faced or somebody who has double standards. Anyone who says one thing and does another is subject to the label. Remember that 85% of outsiders who were surveyed have had significant exposure to Christians and churches and they have concluded that Christianity today is hypocritical. Half of the young churchgoers surveyed agreed with the outsiders assessment.
Why? Kinneman notes that we (Christians) need to realize is what they (outsiders) see from Christians creates their ideas about the reality and authenticity of following Christ. So begs the question – “By our words and actions, are we boosting the reputation of Christianity, or are we unwitting accomplices in presenting an UnChristian faith to outsiders,”(p. 43)?
The sad reality is that Mosaics and Busters come to expect this. They have come to the conclusion that people can not be counted on. Expect to be disappointed. They expect hypocrisy from us, and they even expect it in themselves.
Young outsiders have also come to expect everyone to play the angles and make themselves look as good as possible. Our culture considers having a good image to be one of the highest goals in life…. young people have become adept at shaping their own vision of reality…. They see Christianity through the same protect-your-image-at-all-costs lens.
So instead of being a help for them as they struggle with this – they see us doing the same thing.
What are some of the reasons why we have this label applied?
- The obvious reason is that our lives do not match our beliefs. Our lifestyles and perspectives are no different from those around us. Only 15% of those surveyed see any difference at all in Christian lifestyles.
- Another reason is not just our lifestyles but the very way we communicate the priorities of being a Christian. They see Christianity as a religion of rules and regulations. We are seen as hypocritical because they are measuring us by our own standards, (p.48).
The truth is, we have invited the hypocrite image. Our lives are often times poor advertisement to those standards we wish to convey. The authors mention that the apostle Paul warned us about this.
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another, (Galatians 3:3; 5:1; 13-15, ESV).
Kinneman and Lyons state that the UnChristian faith which is hypocritical, judgmental, and full of empty moral striving is what Paul was warning his readers about.
We also deserve the hypocrite title. The authors note a majority of young churchgoers currently believe that gambling, cohabitation and sexual fantasies are morally acceptable. Also a higher percentage of young churchgoers, compared to those who are 42-years of age or older , when it comes to the acceptability of sex outside of marriage, profanity, drunkenness, pornography, homosexual sex and illegal drug use.
So when we lift the standards up, and then their is a major disconnect with our actual lifestyles we earn the label hypocrite.
What are the antidotes? Kinneman and Lyons suggest the following:
Older born-again Christians need to take another look at what Jesus teaches, that spiritual maturity is demonstrated in a life as an outcome of the condition of a person’s heart and soul, that behavior follows belief.
Younger born-again Christians need to take an honest assessment of their lives and realize that they are increasingly poor witnesses of a life and mind transformed by faith. Embracing personal integrity and rejecting compromises to personal purity are crucial goals for young believers.
Be transparent – hypocrisy is failing to acknowledge the inconsistencies in our life. Living with integrity starts with being transparent, (pg. 54-55).
Some questions to consider…
- Are we being transparent with others or are we hiding behind a facade?
- How do you believe you should address significant moral issues?
- What concerns you?
- As a Christ follower, does your response to these moral issues reflect their complexity?
- Are Are you honest with yourself about your own struggles? If so how does that affect how you approach others who are struggling? If not, why not?
I’m looking forward to further discussion… so please leave a comment!
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