Response idea (from Dr. Root's longer response below) : "Can you clarify what you mean by hypocrite? Do you mean that Christians sometimes don't live up to the values they promote? My answer may surprise you, but you are right and very insightful. Christians are hypocrites, and something that might surprise you is that I am a hypocrite too, just like so many of the world. I value the love of others yet have at times failed to show love to others. I value truth but at times have been untruthful. I value faithfulness but have not always been faithful. I am a hypocrite, and I am saddened that I have exhibited these characteristics which are contradictory to what I believe and value. Have you always lived up to the ideals you believe in? If not, what do you find has been helpful in your life? The only thing that has been hopeful for me to live more consistent with my values is the relationship I have with a God who loves me, who knows me, and who is willing to forgive me and help me. What is hopeful to you that you will be able to live more consistent with your values?"
Another criticism is, “Christians are hypocrites”. Notice, this is Name Calling of a Group. In this instance the name calling is of Christians in general rather than a specific person.
Some people indicate hypocrisy as the reason for not being open to considering Christianity. They say this because they see those who call themselves Christian, whether on TV or maybe people they know, who demonstrate characteristics in their lives opposite of what that person feels a Christian should be demonstrating.
The early 1900’s Christian preacher Donald Barnhouse made the following statement,
“There are two reasons people don’t become Christians. The first is that they don’t know any, and the second is that they do.”
To see the significant impact our character has on the perceptions of non-Christians, we only need to see two comments Gandhi made. He stated,
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ”,
He also said, “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”
What a condemnation of the way many Christians live. A few years ago, the student president of the Christian Club of one of the high school’s in our area told me that pictures had been taken of a few of the students from the Christian Club while they were at a party. The pictures were posted on one of the social media sites. Evidently the pictures showed these few students acting very inconsistently with how others normally expect Christians to act. One person who saw the pictures commented to the president of the Christian Club,
“The pictures prove that the club is full of hypocrites! They are all going to burn in hell!”
Can you imagine how the club’s president felt after hearing this? The pictures were only of only a few students, yet the person who made the comment associated what they saw objectionable in the pictures with all of the students in the Club. In contrast, the next year one of the Christian students mentioned to me that she had heard a few of the other students in the club indicate that they don't accept Christianity, but they like going to the club because the students were moral.
Amazing isn't it, the influence we have with others, either for or against Christianity.
Isaiah 43:10 states, “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord
This verse shows that it's not a matter of us having a choice whether we will be a witness for Christ or not. We will be witnesses. The choice we have is whether we will be a good witness or a bad witness.
If you are a Christian, how is your Christian life and commitment perceived by others, and by others on social media sites? Is there anything in your life which if discovered by others would be embarrassing for you and damaging to the image others have of Christians and Christianity?
Can you also see how the actions of a very few can significantly influence the impression others have of a group, particularly Christianity, and another Christian’s ability to communicate further with them?
When you see a company vehicle driving in an unsafe manner, do you limit your negative impression to the driver or do you also look at that company negatively? I know that when I've seen this happen my first reaction is that if a company is going to hire someone like that, then I’m not going to give them my business. This is one of the reasons we need to consider so importantly how we represent Christianity!
The unfortunate truth is that some people are looking for Christians to mess up. Of course, isn't human nature like this too? Those who look for Christians to mess up are only too happy to have their expectations confirmed by a small percentage of Christians who don’t think beyond their own convenience, to see how they represent Christianity to others.
Something else to think about. When you have experienced something good or bad, which do you tell more people about? I was working for a company a number of years ago, and they referenced a study about customer experience. The study was conducted to find out which customer experience (good or bad) the customer would tell more people about. They found that a customer who has a good experience with a company will tell on average 4 other people, while a customer who has a bad experience will tell on average 13 other people! If we are honest, we realize that everyone demonstrates hypocrisy at various times, regardless of what they believe, but the negative impressions are the ones that have the greatest impact.
I was privileged to hear an interview with Dr. Jerry Root, who is a professor at Wheaton College` and a C.S. Lewis Scholar. He spoke on the subject of hypocrisy. It is the best presentation I've heard on the subject. It is one of the Stand To Reasons pod-casts. The audio is at the following link, but I've transcribed it just in case the link becomes unavailable, because I believe it is so good.
INTERVIEW WITH DR. JERRY ROOT - C.S. LEWIS SCHOLAR
(the following starts at the 1hr40minute mark)
Dr. Root states,
“When they say they're not interested in spiritual things, especially Christian things because they've seen too many hypocrites in the church. I’ve said to them, ‘That's really insightful of you. Obviously your powers of observation are pretty good. Nobody in the church has it together"
“If we judged any segment of society by its worst examples, nobody could stand. We can always find examples of bad pastors, bad students, bad lawyers, and bad car salesmen, whatever it might be."
“But, when I say to the person, ‘It's insightful of you to see that there are hypocrites in the church’, I say to them, ‘Here's how I know what you're saying is true. I'm one. I believe in the high ideal of love, but there have been times I've had sharp words with people I say I love most in the world. I believe in justice, but there have been times I've been unfair. I did not set out to be unfair, but realized it after the fact. Now I know there are hypocrites in the church, because I'm one."
“With only one exception, hundreds and hundreds of times I've had that conversation, the person has responded to me as openly as I've been unguarded with them. And they've said, 'When you put it like that, I struggle with these things too.' Now the issue of hypocrisy is not the barrier that keeps us from talking about matters of faith, the ‘barrier’ actually opens the door, so that we can get to the issues of faith.”
"So I say to them, 'Now as a pilgrim on the same road' with them, 'As a struggler in life, knowing I don't have it all together, what's helped you?' And they say to me, 'Well, I struggle . . .' I say, 'Can I share with you what helps me?' And I'm then able to go and talk with them about the love of God. The God who knows me, knows all of my goofiness, knows my lack of life skill, knows my inconsistencies, and hypocrisies. He knows me and he loves me. And that gives me the encouragement then to pick myself up from my failures, and have a reason to go on, in the light of that love. Not only that, He forgives me of those things, which in a sense is a fresh start, a second chance. And I think that's brilliant stuff, and we all long to be fixed. Anyone who’s honest with themselves at least longs to be fixed."
"CS Lewis says in his essay Christian apologetics, 'Before the Gospel can be Good News, it’s got to be bad news.' Lewis says, 'Nobody comes to faith in Christ, without acknowledging their need for Christ, without coming to some awareness of sin. That the way to awaken a person to their sins, is probably not to be condescending and condemning.
"CS Lewis adds, 'There's a better way. That way is to talk about our own struggles this last week, and often that kind of honesty, will allow the other person in our presence to be equally honest.' Now we can get to some good places.”
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