The Charge of hypocrisy
One common criticism of the church is that it is full of hypocrites, people who say one thing and do another. The problem with countering this criticism is that it is true. If we are honest, we will have to admit that none of us lives up to our own standard of behavior, let alone the standard set before us in Scripture. We all practice some level of hypocrisy in that there is a gap between what we know to be right behavior and how we actually live. I call this the belief gap.
The question is not whether there is a gap between belief and practice, the important question is whether members of the church are actively seeking God for the purpose of closing that gap.
The church is not alone
I feel the need to point out that the church does not have a monopoly on hypocrisy. In every sphere of human activity a higher standard of behavior is held than is lived. The gap between stated belief and actual practice is no less a problem outside the church than in it. Hypocrisy seems to be a universal problem.
The point of this post is not to excuse hypocrisy in the church, it is right to condemn it. The point is that we should evaluate a system on how effective it is in narrowing the belief gap.
One way of narrowing the gap is to reduce the standard. If we have lower expectations, if we reduce the standard to the lowest common denominator, then perhaps the belief gap will be closed.
In western society, we have lowered our standards for what is considered decent and respectable. A short stint at channel surfing in the evening will produce ample evidence of the lowering of standards. It may be accurate to say the belief gap has been narrowed by this method, but are we willing to say that individuals and society are better off with the lower standard?
The other way to go about closing the gap is to seek help from outside. This is the Christian way. We seek the help of God to be better tomorrow than we are today. As John Newton so nicely puts it
“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”
Jude identifies Jesus as the one who is able to close the belief gap by growing us closer to the standard. Jude writes:
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24–25, NASB)
If we, as Christians, are right about who Jesus is and if we stand in relationship to him, we have the hope of one day standing in his presence as blameless. Then, and only then, will the belief gap be finally closed.