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One of the most common reasons people reject Christianity is that they have met too many hypocrites and have been turned off from the faith. Others have found Christians to be too judgmental and want no part of such harshness. Maybe you agree with those reasons, or maybe you’re a follower of Jesus who wants to better reflect God in your life. It’s worth a look to see the difference between those representations and what Jesus truly preached.
Unbelievers who object to the hypocrisy of religious people may be surprised to know that Jesus did too. Jesus directed harsh words towards the religious leaders of that time, and His greatest quarrel with them was the fact that they did not practice what they preached. Jesus uses the word "hypocrite" seven times in Matthew 23 as He condemns the Pharisees for their inconsistent views, and He uses hypocrisy as a litmus test to prove who is truly His. "Every healthy tree bears good fruit," Jesus says (Matthew 7:17), "but the diseased tree bears bad fruit." By this, Jesus means that those who are truly His disciples will live as He did, and those who don't will show that they are “another kind of tree.”
While it's true that Jesus expects us to bear fruit from repentance (Luke 3:8), it's also true that we are all a work in progress. We are transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:16–18), and that means that even when we stand right before God through faith in Jesus Christ, we still have room to grow. If that sounds like a contradiction, it's the difference between justification and sanctification. Understanding the two can reveal where hypocrisy comes from and help put an end to it.
Justification teaches that the moment we come to Christ, every sin is forgiven — past, present, and future. Christ offered Himself once for all as a sufficient sacrifice to God (John 3:16, Romans 3: 21–28; 5:1–11, Hebrews 9:11–12), and we are reconciled freely through faith alone in Him. Sanctification teaches that we do not earn salvation through righteousness, but because of our salvation, we make every effort to live like Jesus every day (Philippians 2:12–13, Hebrews 12:14, 1 John 3:3–24).
Justification happens the moment we place our faith in Jesus, but sanctification is a lifelong process. That means that while we are already children of God, we will still fall short from time to time — and that doesn't necessarily make us hypocrites. True Christians regret their sin and take active measures to fight against it by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of them, and they do it while resting in the knowledge that they are still loved by Christ. Hypocrites make no such effort to wage war against their sin (Romans 8:13), and by treating His sacrifice with such contempt they prove that they don't truly have faith in Christ at all (Hebrews 10:26–31) — which is what makes them hypocrites in the first place.
Without grasping justification or sanctification, it’s easy to view Christians as hypocrites when they sin. As flawed and insecure humans, we may act like hypocrites when we point fingers. However, that is not a reflection of Jesus or God’s purpose for us. No matter what mistakes we make, we can still start fresh and do our best to follow God’s Word. When we fail, we get back up, and that doesn't make us hypocrites.
The stereotype of “judgmental Christians” encourages preconceived hesitance toward people of faith. Even if you don’t believe the Bible is true, you may still know that Jesus said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged," (Matthew 7:1) So why do Christians speak out on so many issues?
It's true that only Jesus has the ultimate authority to judge, and if we judge others too severely, we will be measured by the same standard (Luke 6:37–38). But to understand what Jesus meant, we must ask what judgment really is. If we say that someone is sinning, are we judging them? If that were the case, the Bible would be wrong to tell us to admonish others (2 Thessalonians 3:14–15, 2 Timothy 4:2–4, Titus 3:10–11). Moreover, 1 Corinthians 5:11–13 explicitly tells us to judge those within the Church, so Jesus clearly has something more in mind than simply speaking truth.
When Jesus says not to judge, He uses the Greek word κρίνω (pronounced krino). Its meanings range from discerning to condemning, but the primary sense is of a judge casting a verdict. More than speaking truth or warning others from a place of love, judgment renders a sentence — and that right belongs to Jesus. Christians are called to speak unashamedly about what the Bible says and to lovingly warn others when they are going against His will. We can even make sound decisions on the fruit we see in people's lives, but we must always leave space for God to have the final say. When we do that, we are obeying Jesus' commands, not being judgmental. Sometimes we have trouble speaking with love because our egos and our biases get in the way of God’s voice. That’s something we must work on, but we will never be perfect. Ultimately, Jesus is the only perfect example of how God wants us to treat others.
Tolerance used to mean disagreeing with someone while still loving and respecting them. Now it has come to mean universal affirmation, where everything a person does must be ok. Our new version of tolerance is anything but loving because affirming self-destructive sin is evil in itself. Christians can and must be tolerant by loving and respecting those who are living in sin but to do so rightly, they must tell them the life-saving truth of Jesus. This should be done with love, and in a respectful setting, and when it’s not, it’s understandable why it can be a turn-off. But that doesn’t change the truth of God’s message and what He can do in your life.
There is no consistency if you look to imperfect people as your final evidence of Christ. Christians are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20–21) so it's essential that we represent Him well, but our fallen nature is bound to fail eventually. We should be examples of Jesus' teachings if we call ourselves followers of Jesus, but everyone is still responsible for examining Jesus' teachings where they most clearly are found: in Christ Himself through His Word. When we do that, we find nothing but a God who is worthy of all our worship.
We as a church exist to help you meet, know and follow Jesus. No matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or what’s been done to you, God loves you and you are welcome at Sun Valley.