There is a well-known quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi that believers and non-believers alike often use as a crutch. “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” The validity of this quote is a bit in the air, but suffice it to say that it hits a nerve with what many people feel when they think of Christians. Gandhi is basically saying that Christians are hypocrites. And he’s not wrong.
In his letter to the church in Rome, chapter 7, Paul goes to great lengths describing how he knows the right thing to do, but often times finds himself doing the exact opposite. Dealing specifically with the Law (of Moses), he explains how sin takes opportunity through the commandment to spark in us certain fleshly desires which we know are sin, but because we are fleshly we often fall to them…
“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate…. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.” – Romans 7:14-23
To put it simply; Christians are hypocrites, and Paul readily admits it! The problem is that many will hold this view about Christians and conclude that the entire belief system is false. Jesus must not be “the truth” as he claimed if following him looks like this, right? But is that a logical conclusion? Does it follow that because someone professing to be a Christian often falls short and does things his savior does not permit, that God does not exist? Or Jesus is not resurrected? Or you are exempt from worshiping your creator? Certainly not! Finding fault with a Christian tells you nothing about the truth of Christ. It only tells you about that Christian.
Suppose I need to change a ceiling light in my home. Looking around, I notice the dining room chair is tall enough to reach if I climb on top. I move the chair under the light and climb on top. It quickly breaks. My kids, watching this all play out, conclude that chairs are worthless and they’ll never be found using one. The chair failed me. It didn’t perform the task it looked like it should and my kids decide they’ll never put their trust in chairs. Is that a rational conclusion?
I was using the chair in a way different from it’s intended use. I was using it out of convenience to serve my own needs, not unlike the way some Christians use Jesus. Does that mean that chairs are worthless, or wrong, or do not exist? Of course not! What it means is that I misunderstood something about the chair. Or that I was using it recklessly.
The same can be said for Christianity. When someone claiming to be a disciple of Christ falls short and can be properly labeled a hypocrite, it means precisely nothing regarding the truth of Jesus’ Gospel. Placing blame on Jesus for his followers erring from the straight and narrow is like blaming a chair for breaking when I don’t use it as intended.
But here’s the kicker. Even though that hypocrite fails regularly, because they believe (presumably) that Jesus rose for their salvation, and because they follow (as best they can) the call of Christ, they can have peace with God and salvation through Christ. Paul follows up his confession of his hypocrisy like this…
“Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” – Romans 7:24f
The truth is that all mankind suffers from doing or thinking things they know in their hearts is wrong. Hypocrisy is not something unique to Christians. Trust me, we are convicted of it more and more as we dwell on God’s word. But because we put our faith and hope in the resurrection of Jesus, our hypocrisy is forgiven and washed away in the blood of His sacrifice. We can be “set free from the body of this death.” The one finding fault with Christ, and refusing his offer of salvation because of the errors of Christians, will not find peace in this life or the next.