“Jesus said, ‘But woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! For you shut off the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.’”– Matthew 23: 13
I’ve had a lot of Gospel conversations in my life, and the #1 objection to Christianity goes something like this: “The church and Christianity are full of hypocrites; I don’t want anything to do with that group of phonies.” I call this the Hypocrite Hurdle. Maybe you’ve heard of it yourself.
The term “hypocrite” was originally used in ancient Greece to refer to actors who wore masks. The masks made them appear to be someone they weren’t – thus actors. Over time, the word came to describe people who appear to be something or someone they’re not: a phony, fraud, or charlatan. Unfortunately, the term hypocrite today is most often directed towards Christians.
Jesus was well aware of such hypocrites. In His day, the biggest fakers were the Pharisees. These were the “religious leaders” who were so concerned about appearing to follow the religious “rules,” that they missed the heart of God and life transformation that only Jesus can bring – change from within. So how do we respond to the Hypocrite Hurdle objection?
First of all, don’t get defensive. Every single follower of Jesus is flawed. Therefore, every church is full of imperfect people who don’t always live the way they know they should – including me. We just don’t always practice what we preach. Yet, I can’t think of a better place for a bunch of hypocrites to be than in church, because the church isn’t a cruise ship for saints, but a hospital for sinners.
Secondly, point to Jesus rather than to the shortcomings of His followers. While you and I will always disappoint in one way or another, Jesus never will. Jesus loves us – our flawed, broken, and hypocritical selves. So the next time someone brings up the Hypocrite Hurdle in relation to Christianity, humbly point them to Jesus when they point to our flaws. Ask them to consider Him. Read about His life in the Gospels and see what they think. I really believe they will like Him (There won’t be any phoniness in Jesus). And some will even choose to follow Him.