“Do not judge, lest you should be judged.” (Matthew 7:1 BLB)
“There are too many hypocrites in the church, so I don’t go.”
That was the first sentence out of the young man’s mouth after he found out that I was a pastor. I was walking my dog and stopped to talk to a neighbor who was standing at the end of his driveway. He was speaking with his cheerful, thirty-something friend who had paid him an unexpected visit. We exchanged introductions and then the young man asked me what I did for a living. Oh, trouble.
I rarely lead with the fact that I’m a minister. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it. It’s just that I’ve found it tends to make many people defensive right away. Such was the case in this instance. The young man’s countenance changed immediately. In a blink, he went from affable to aggressive.
“There are too many hypocrites in the church, so I don’t go. I can’t stand how everybody there judges everybody else!”
“Which church was that,” I returned. “Every church is like that!” He asserted. “You’ve been to every church?” I queried. The question took him aback a little. He paused ever so briefly and then changed tactics. He began delineating everything he knew about the dark spots in church history. Pointing out, as if I didn’t know, every instance of injustice he could think of committed by “the church” since its inception. He spoke, without a breath it seemed, for at least five minutes. Then he punctuated, “See, hypocrites!” “Where do you work?” I asked. Again, my question gave him pause. After a moment’s hesitation, he told me where he worked. Then I followed, “So, there are no hypocrites where you work? No one who talks one way behind the boss’s back, then another way to his face? Nobody that slacks on the job, or calls in sick when they’re really going fishing?” “Well, yeah,” he answered, “I suppose.” “Then, why do you go to work?”
Here’s the thing. I have heard about hypocrites and judgmental people in the church nearly all my life. It’s usually from non-church-goers who find out I go to church or that I’m a minister. So, the question here is, “Who is judging whom?” Of course, there are hypocrites and judgmental people in the church! It’s because the church is full of people. Wherever you find people, you’re going to find a measure of hypocrisy and pride. This shouldn’t keep us from going to church any more than it should keep us from going to work or school or the grocery or any other place where we encounter people.
Churches are full of people in process. Some of those people are just beginning the process of their Christian walk and shouldn’t be judged as if they ought to be instantly mature. Some of the people in churches have been in the process for a while now and are pretty mature. However, they are still people. People make mistakes. They shouldn’t be judged as if they ought to be infallible.
And, of course, there are people in the church that aren’t in the process at all. They’re pretenders, hypocrites, or “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” But, the whole church shouldn’t be judged on account of them. Just because a mouse is in a cookie jar, doesn’t make it a cookie. Nor, does it make all cookies everywhere bad. So, just because some people in the church aren’t who they pretend to be doesn’t make the whole church bad, either.
I’m not excusing hypocrisy or judgmental attitudes within the church. They shouldn’t be there. But, I’m not going to pretend they aren’t there, either. I’m just asking you to look in the mirror for a second. Isn’t it just a little bit self-righteous to point out how hypocritical and judgmental church people are, when, by judging all of them by the actions of a few, you’re doing the same thing yourself? Isn’t it just a bit hypocritical to use the “hypocrites in the church” excuse for not attending church, when you still go to work or school despite the hypocrites there?
I’m not trying to convince you to start going to church here. I’m simply asking you to “take the plank out of your own eye” before pointing out the specks in the church’s eye. Ask yourself, “Who is really judging whom, here?”
However, I would like to appeal to you, don’t judge Christ or Christianity by the actions or attitudes of the few Christians you may know, especially the hypocritical ones. Jesus didn’t like hypocrisy, either. Neither did he condone judgmental attitudes.
If you really want to know the authentic Christ, then study the Gospels in the Bible starting with the Gospel of John. Ask Jesus to come into your life and teach you how to have an authentic relationship with him. If you don’t want to take the time to do that, fine. If you don’t want anything to do with Christ because you’re happy with how you are, fine. If you don’t want to follow Christ because you don’t want Him to change your life, fine. No problem. Just be honest and say that. Own it. Don’t blame it on hypocrites in the church – because, that in itself is hypocritical.
© Paul R Downing