Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face
It’s not unusual to hear people level the charge of “hypocrite” at Christians. Usually, this happens during debates about moral issues or the existence of God or any other time it seems convenient.
Almost no one cares about logical fallacies in this day and age. At the risk of irrelevance, I would point out that calling someone a hypocrite is a classic ad hominem attack. (“Ad hominem” means “at the person”). Talking about the evils of alcoholism while drunk may make me a poor spokesman for AA; my being drunk, however, doesn’t change the fact that alcoholism is a destructive condition. My character is irrelevant to the argument. Whether a Christian lives Christianity doesn’t prove or disprove whether adultery is immoral or whether God exists.
Logical fallacies aside, I agree that hypocrites exist and that some of them are Christians. Some are also non-Christians. I also agree that hypocrisy is one of the uglier human conditions. For that reason, God has been hypocrisy’s biggest critic. When Jesus walked the earth, He denounced hypocrisy in scathing terms (Matt. 23:1-36).
When it comes to hypocrisy, I’m not that worried about what non-Christians think. Saying it doesn’t make it so. Scripture says they are unable to judge spiritual things or people (1 Cor. 2:14-15). What concerns me is the way Christians are affected by the charge of hypocrisy.
Fear of being called hypocrite makes us timid at times. We feel we have no right to say something is sinful because of our own short-comings. Truly, we have no right to say whether or not something is sinful *if we do so based on our own moral perfection*. This is a trap Christians fall into. Feeling themselves above reproach, some passionately denounce others. This is self-righteousness.
At the same time, God has said what is and isn’t sinful. Telling others what God has said doesn’t require us to be free from sin. In that case, our words are not our own; our judgment is not our own; our right to speak is based on God’s moral perfection. Paul said his goal was to be found in Christ, not having a righteousness based on keeping God’s law but based on faith in Christ (Php. 3:9).
Similarly, our gospel isn’t, “We’re perfect so we have a right to tell you the truth about God.” Paul says, “we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor. 4:5). We don’t preach the gospel based on any moral or personal superiority. Christ lives in us. His new life has raised us from the death of our old life (Rom. 6:4-5). Jesus is our gospel; we can only preach based on His true-ness and purity.
Being cowed by the charge of hypocrisy is revealing. It shows we are focused on ourselves. We need to grow into God’s perspective. God’s viewpoint is filled by Jesus, His Son. If our preaching flows from a Christ-focus instead of a self-focus, we avoid the pitfalls of timidity and self-righteousness. If Christ is all in our hearts, we can’t take credit or blame for what we declare.