So now that things have calmed down a bit in my own life (just finished performing in Much Ado About Nothing with my wife), I can get back to my plan to further discuss David Kinnaman's book, unChristian. Today I want to concentrate on one of the biggest perceptions about Christians...that we are hypocritical.
What does it mean to be hypocritical? Basically it means to say one thing and do another. With Christians it means talking a lot about God, Jesus, and the teachings of the Bible, but not acting on them in any significant way. One quote from Kinnaman's book really grabbed me, and it speaks to some Christians. A woman told of her husband abusing her, "even though he taught Bible studies about how husbands should love their wives." A man interviewed for the study said "My former pastor used to teach baptism by immersion, then he got a better job with the Presbyterians and now he teachs baptism can be done by sprinkling. What you believe depends on where your paycheck is coming from, I guess."
Wow, is this how Christians are really seen? Among young non-Christians surveyed, 85% know at least one commited Christian, yet only 15% thought that the lifestyles of those Christians were singificantly different from the norm. When born-again believers were surveyed as to their own lifestyles, they were statistically just as likely as non-Christians to gamble, become drunk, view pornography, and other bad behaviors. I hate to say it, but it's not rare to see Christians talking a lot about how Christ is working in their lives, but then failing to see this happening. I've seen it in people around me, and have been guilty of it myself.
So what does all of this mean? Well, we Christians are human, and full of sin just like anyone else. Unfortunately, having a faith in Jesus does not keep us from making mistakes. We're going to mess up despite our best intentions. But hopefully we won't do it as willingly as non-Christians.
Kinnaman talks about "transparency", and I think this can be a good model. This means that we need to be open with people about our failings, and apologize for them. We can't have a "holier than thou" attitude and think that we're better than anyone else. When we mess up, we need to fess up (to draw on my Southern heritage) and admit to the mistake. We also need to have transparency about ourselves, realize our hypocracy, and work hard to fix this problem. Knowing that we're ambassadors from Jesus to the world, and that our actions influence people's opinions about God, Jesus, and Christianity, we need to more actively study our own behaviors and see if they meet with the Bible's standards. Holding a mirror up to ourselves is a difficult but necessary step.
If we're going to have people believe what we say about God, we need them to be able to trust us. If they see us as hypocrites, they won't give us that trust. We also want people to be drawn to Christianity and want to become Christians. But to do that, we need to show them a better, non-hypocrotical person.