Analysis: ASHLEY THABA
THIS week, by the grace of God, we will answer a question that I am sure we have all asked ourselves before at some point: Why should I go to church when it is full of hypocrites?
A quick Google search defines a hypocrite as, “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc, that he or she does not actually possess.” Taking us back in history, I remember sitting in an ancient Greek theatre during a time in university when I was studying Biblical archeology in Greece. The tour guide explained that the word, hypocrite, is derived from the Greek word, hypokrites, which means an actor. Basically, a hypocrite is someone playing a part for an audience. And we have all met many people who say one thing and live another because they feel they must keep up with some type of appearance to please people.
The key word to me in this definition is appearance. The reason I think it is important is because you need to discern the difference between those who are actively preaching and portraying a certain state of holiness in order to keep up with an expected appearance but are clearly living in a continual state that is opposed to that which they propagate vs those who are genuinely trying to live a godly life but mess up.
Interestingly enough…you know who also spoke strongly against hypocrites? Jesus. In fact, the harshest language he used in the Bible is reserved for describing hypocrites. You can find some of these angry diatribes in Mathew 6, Mathew 23, and Mark 7. Let me quote a snippet to give you an idea of what you will find if you read these passages. In Mark 7:6-8, Jesus says, “He replied: ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules…’
Jesus couldn’t stand leaders who acted self-righteous, projecting unrealistic standards while judging those whom they were leading. People who pretended they were perfect and had the right to look down on others when in fact behind the scenes they were thinking evil thoughts, were sexually immoral, greedy, deceitful, arrogant, and adulterers (Mark 7:21-23). On the contrary, Jesus praised those who came honestly and humbly seeking forgiveness and salvation. An example is demonstrated in Luke 18:9-14 : “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Using these scriptures, it is clear that we go to church to worship Jesus – full stop… not “men/women of God” or anyone else who might impose any type of man-made rules that make you in some way feel inferior or not worthy of His utmost love and acceptance.
However, that said, it should be noted that the church is simply a group of people who have admitted they are sinners in need of a Saviour. From the pastor to the doorkeeper, they are all dependent on Jesus for purity and righteousness. There is nothing inherently perfect in any human in our churches. It is more like a support group of like-minded people coming together to walk with each other in this journey called life.
If you are attending a church where you feel the leadership is putting on a show, just like the ancient hypokrites of Greece – actors playing a part for an audience, then I suggest you run. But if you are attending a church where people are teaching you God’s word and are striving to live by it but are clearly confessing that they still mess up – well, welcome to planet earth – a place where no-one is perfect.
Let me leave you with this question to ponder as you debate whether you should attend a church with hypocrites. Why go to a hospital to get well when it is full of sick people?
The author is a life coach, team building facilitator and motivational speaker.
Analysis: ASHLEY THABA