Are all Christians hypocrites? A response to a Bill Hybels supporter

I know it must grow wearying to many Jesus-lovers to hear of one Christian leader after another being accused of sexual sins and even crimes.  I become weary too, but not because I believe the accusations are false or nit-picky. No, I’m glad for any such truths that are coming out, and I’m glad criminals and hypocrites are being exposed. It’s the hypocrisy itself I grow weary of.

Bill Hybels

The hypocrisy was especially brought it to my attention this time in an article my husband told me about a couple of days ago, which defended one of the recently accused, Bill Hybels (who has been accused of long-term adultery as well as attempts at seduction, allegations against whom can be found here and here and here).

The article I’m replying to, published by Christian Today (not Christianity Today) is here

Some oft-repeated falsehoods

In his article, the UK writer says

[I]n the US, as here in the UK, someone is innocent until proven guilty.

This is a highly misleading statement, as I’ve addressed at length here. In short, a person who actually committed a crime is NOT innocent (not even until proven guilty). He is, in fact, guilty of the crime.

And in fact, if he really committed the crime, then even if he is found not guilty in court, he is still guilty of the crime. I hope those who are able to think logically can understand the logic of this statement.

The author of the Christian Today article also said, in regard to Bill Hybels:

It is vital to remember that none of us can fully know what happened.

 Again, I’ve heard this one so often, but it’s wrong. Again, I’ve addressed that here. If a person committed a crime, then there is indeed the very real possibility that there are actually people—even people reading this article—who can know what happened (if not “fully,” at least enough), including those on whom the crime was perpetrated, witnesses to the crime, those who have reviewed evidence, and others such as therapists who have gone through months or years of trauma work with one on whom the crime was perpetrated.

Getting to the point

But those oft-repeated falsehoods aren’t even the main point of this man’s article. His main point is that we are all hypocrites. Christians, that is. All of us Christians are hypocrites. Which means, of course, how dare we point a finger at someone else whose hypocrisy has come to light.

Even though the author recommends a life of constant repenting, he believes we will never be able to live in victory over hypocrisy.

I disagree.

It’s vital to observe how Jesus used the word hypocrite, because we can learn the whole truth about hypocrisy from Him. The author references one statement of Jesus about it (Matthew 7:3-5), but there are others, very important others.

Here are some things Jesus makes very clear about hypocrites:

· A hypocrite lives for the praise of men rather than the praise of God.

Jesus said, regarding the Pharisees, in Matthew 6:2, 5, and 16:

 So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.  

Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

If you do what you do for flattery, if you bask in flattery and even promote others by flattery, then this is a sign that you may well be a hypocrite.

But I dare to say through the ages and even now there have been and are some people working for God and His Kingdom without regard to praise of men, and in fact in the face of much censure. They are not hypocrites.

· A hypocrite makes a pretense of being close to God, but his heart is far from God.

In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus said to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of their day,

 You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:  This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
 in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’
 

Is your core heart desire to be close to God or to be hidden from God? That will be one facet of what will determine whether or not you are a hypocrite.

I dare to say there are some people who want to honor God not only with their lips, but with their whole hearts.  They want their hearts to be in close harmony with God. They want to truly know Him. They are not hypocrites.

· A hypocrite focuses on minutiae of the law and ignores what is important to God.

Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23,

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

One of the most important ways, I believe, to discern a hypocrite is how he treats the oppressed, the marginalized, the downtrodden. Will he, as one Sovereign Grace official proclaimed recently, refuse to be held accountable for evils allegedly perpetrated on the weakest and most vulnerable among us?

But I dare to say that there have been and are Christians whose heart’s desire is for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ to be made known in justice, mercy, and truth, all truth. They are not hypocrites.

· A hypocrite preaches and acts one way in public while committing evil in private and in secret.

In Matthew 23:14, 25, and 27-28, Jesus said to the Pharisees,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.

 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

This is arguably the essence of hypocrisy: the double life. Not just one who sins, but one who commits acts of evil on purpose, evil being defined as purposely thumbing the nose at God and/or purposely inflicting harm on others, and I have heard of great, great harm being inflicted on the vulnerable (who have spoken with me personally) by those who have been and even still are highly respected as good Christians and even Christian leaders.

But if we are all hypocrites, then that means we are all living a double life. It means that none of us can live a life of integrity, being the same person in private and in secret that we are in public.

But I dare to say that there have been Christians through the ages who have lived lives of integrity, and there are Christians even today who are doing the same. They are living lives that are the same—loving God and loving others—in public, in private, and in secret.

· A hypocrite will not only turn people away from Jesus Christ, the only hope for salvation, but in many cases will actively work to draw them into his evil too.

Jesus said in Matthew 23:13 and 15,

But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

I can’t even begin to count the number of adults I’ve heard about who have turned away from Jesus Christ because of the hypocrites in their lives, and I’m not talking just about how “all of us sin.” I’m talking about the pseudo-Christians like in Ezekiel 34 who pretend to be shepherds for the sheep but end up devouring the sheep.

· A hypocrite will reprove others of their “speck” while he himself has a “beam” (or “log”) that he refuses to address.

In Matthew 7:3-5, Jesus said to His listeners,

Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

This is the one Scripture the author of the article quoted; but somehow he seemed to assume that even if Christians repent of their “beam,” it will continue to be there.

Is this what we would say about the apostle Peter when in Acts 2 he preached to the Jewish leaders about how they had killed their Messiah?

Is this what we would say about the apostle Paul when in Acts 17 he preached to the Athenians about their need to know “the unknown God”?

Is this what we would say to the Wesleys and Wilberforces and Whitefields throughout the generations? “You are a hypocrite yourself, so you’re pretty cheeky to be speaking about the sins of others.” Is this what we would say?

Could it be, rather, that some Christians have asked the Lord to show them their “beam” or “beams,” whatever they may be, and then have gotten them out? After all, Jesus indicates it’s possible to do that. This would be a natural result of true repentance. Could it be that there are Christians who are living in the power of the Holy Spirit?

I dare to say that there are some Christians who are not hypocrites, which would mean that if they had a beam, they have dealt with it, removed it and repented of it, so that they can see more clearly whatever it is that is in someone else’s eye. (The whole system of Christian counseling is based on this idea.)

Also, Jesus wasn’t saying that the sin of the other person is always necessarily only a “speck.” Another person who claims to be a Christian may in fact be committing monstrosities.

Adam Clarke, in his commentary on Matthew 7:5, said,

A hypocrite, who professes to be what he is not (that is, a true Christian), is obliged, for the support of the character he has assumed, to imitate all the dispositions and actions of a Christian. Consequently he must reprove sin and endeavor to show an uncommon affection for the glory of God.

Sound familiar?

Our Lord unmasks this vile pretender to saintship and shows him that his hidden hypocrisy, covered with the garb of external sanctity, is more abominable in the sight of God than the openly professed and practised iniquity of the profligate.

Albert Barnes, on the same Scripture:

Christ directs us to the proper way of forming an opinion of others, and of reproving and correcting them. By first amending our own faults, or casting the beam out of our eye, we can consistently advance to correct the faults of others. There will then be no hypocrisy in our conduct. We shall also ‘see clearly’ to do it.

He assumes that Jesus is teaching that we can be free from hypocrisy.

The beam, the thing that obscured our sight, will be removed, and we shall more clearly discern the ‘small’ object that obscures the sight of our brother. The sentiment is that the readiest way to judge of the imperfections of others is to be free from greater ones ourselves. This qualifies us for judging, makes us candid and consistent, and enables us to see things as they are and to make proper allowances for frailty and imperfection.

What this false teaching accomplishes

The insidious nature of the “we are all hypocrites” teaching accomplishes a masking of much great evil—great, great evil—being done under the guise of Christianity. The allegations against Bill Hybels, which are compelling, are not even the worst of it.

There is only one group of people that our Lord Jesus called “whited sepulchers,” perhaps the most extreme metaphor for hypocrisy ever developed. It was to those who fit the descriptions above.

I dare to say there are those in Christendom today who truly want to see evil cast out of the churches of Jesus Christ, and we are the ones who must recognize the importance of understanding degrees of sin.

I dare to say that there are some who are zealous for the Kingdom of God . . .

  • Who are not living for the praise of men, not receiving or dispensing flattery.

  • Who long to be close to God and live for God.

  • Who truly want to focus on justice, mercy, and truth, the things that are important to God.

  • Who live lives of integrity, the same in private and in secret as they are in public.

  • Who will draw others to good, to the real Jesus, rather than turning them away or even drawing them into their secret evil.

Of course writers and speakers who declare that we are all hypocrites are acknowledging that they themselves are hypocrites, or at least see themselves that way. But they are also saying that the power of God is not enough to deliver us from hypocrisy, but is impotent in this regard in our Christian lives. And even more—and how I hope Christians who love Jesus will grasp this—they are wittingly or unwittingly covering for great evil in our churches. 

 May those of us who truly love Jesus and want to see His kingdom come, those of us who are living lives of integrity, passionate for Him, lives that are the same in private and in secret as they are in public, decry this sin leveling that ultimately debilitates and undermines the church of Jesus Christ.

May we stand against a hypocrisy that declares that we are all hypocrites.

*****

More blog posts that address the crucial problem of sin leveling can be found here:

Are all sins really equal?

Four ways teaching Christians to embrace “I’m the worst sinner I know” is harming the church

“You just need to be content” — a response to Desiring God

Should you love yourself? A response to Desiring God

What hypocrisy is and what it isn’t and why that’s important: a lesson from Tullian Tchividjian

On calling people out via social media—a response to Jarrid Wilson

Rethinking the idol factory: challenging the “idol” construct as the explanation for all sin in the lives of Christians

10
Leave a Reply

I welcome your thoughts (see commenting policy)

  Subscribe  
Notify of
Ken
Guest
Ken

What a helpful treatment of this subject and specifically “hypocrite”. Will have to keep this article saved as a ready resource.

Janet O'Brien
Guest

Thank you for this thoughtful, straightforward post. You model how a follower of Christ should approach this or any issue with courage, love, and trust in the power of an indwelling Holy Spirit. Thank you.

Janet O’Brien
(Teapotjan)

Sam Powell
Guest

Excellent, Rebecca. You nailed it, as you usually do. Thank you

Freedom
Guest
Freedom

Rebecca, WoW!!!
Well articulated and sadly I think this is such a bigger problem than many of us know. Thank you for highlighting the errors of mindsets that form and really DO influence other people to think in such damaging ways. I think it furthers the complacency of growth among Christians maturing in their faith and transforming into the people God calls to do a work that is not a double life and a work that He equips in us!

cindy burrell
Guest

Rebecca, your beautifully researched work hits the mark powerfully and completely. How people buy into these so-called religious leaders’ tripe defies logic, but thank you for so thoroughly refuting their lies and disgusting rationalizations. This piece is a keeper!

healinginhim
Guest

Thank you so much for posting this. Greatly appreciate the integrity of your writing.

Nancy
Guest
Nancy

Agree with what you wrote. But I have a problem with some who want to harshly judge those with sexual sins, yet have personally had abortions, and many of them in the church. Maybe this is the idea of us all being hypocrites.
I remember a friend who wanted to work in a missions office but couldn’t because she had been divorced. And yet women who have had abortions are turned down for nothing. Something is seriously wrong here.
I’ve also heard pastors be sympathetic from the pulpit, to those who have had abortions. No problem with that, except other heinous sins don’t get the same sympathy. What’s with that?

Bunkababy
Guest
Bunkababy

If there is no victory over sin, what was the point of Jesus coming to set captives free, ( captive to sin) sight to the blind( those blinded by their own sin) etc.

It makes the prophessy of Christ’s birth and ministry a lie.

We do not have to wallow in sin . Saying everyone sins or is a hypocrite denies the power of the cros.

We might be hypocrites at some point but it is not a reason to continue in sin or justify sin.