Mark Twain said we are like the moon, we all have a dark side we don’t want anyone to see. Christians also have their dark sides. We may strive to be Christ-like, but we often fail, because no one is perfect except God.
A hypocrite is someone who puts on a false appearance or pretends to have beliefs or virtues that he/she does not really have. A hypocrite is a deceiver. The Greek word for hypocrite refers to someone who acts in a play. In Greek drama actors often held painted masks over their faces to represent the characters they portrayed. Criminals and scammers pretend to be respectable while having an evil motive.
It is widely observed that Christians have high moral standards. But sadly there have been high profile cases of some Christians who have not been good examples, eg, Jimmy Swaggart (American televangelist), paedophile priests, and more recently Ravi Zacharias and the City Harvest case. These create a bad impression. But if we are honest, each of us has also been a poor testimony at one point or another, in some way or other. Thankfully, God’s grace is always available to us through repentance and rededication.
The Bible clearly rebukes hypocrisy. In Mt 6 Jesus warned against giving, praying and fasting in order to be praised by men. In Acts 6 a couple named Ananias and Sapphira sold a property and said they would contribute the proceeds to the church. Instead they kept back a certain amount and God revealed it to the leaders who verified the falsehood. Both were judged and died immediately. Hypocrisy was the first recorded sin of the early church. God’s immediate and public judgment was necessary because the fledgling church would be proclaiming the Gospel everywhere, and integrity was crucial in that proclamation. In other words, Jesus warned his disciples about hypocrisy, and God punished those among his people who behaved hypocritically (see also the sin of Achan in Josh 7).
There are several reasons why we behave hypocritically in the eyes of others.
Firstly Christians are saved but imperfect. We have crossed over from death to life but we carry the stain of the world on us. The Holy Spirit begins His work of spiritual renewal for the rest of our earthly lives. Secondly we struggle daily against the world, the flesh and the devil. There is a daily tension of the Spirit prompting us towards godliness on the one hand, but on the other, temptations from this “unholy trinity” are strong, and we may succumb. This can appear to be hypocritical when we go through the motions of external piety, but in private, behave in godless ways. It is a constant struggle, but the Spirit assures of His strength to overcome as we obey.
In conclusion: If we are honest, everyone is a hypocrite. Every Christian is on the road called “Sanctification”, trying our best to live under God’s authority, but often succumbing to temptation. Thankfully on this road, we have the Bible, the Spirit in us, the support of fellow believers, prayer, God’s faithfulness and sustaining grace. He will never leave us no matter how much we mess up. When others point to our failures and say “Why should we become Christians when you are such a poor example?” Our answer should be, “As a believer, I’m on a journey towards becoming like Jesus daily. I’m not asking you to believe in me. I’m asking you to believe in Jesus Christ, the only Holy One, the Son of God who died for the sins of all people. Only He is perfect.”
I John 1:7-9 says “…the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
If we don’t acknowledge our sin, we are hypocrites because we deceive ourselves. But being open and honest about our sins enables God’s forgiveness. Don’t deceive yourself, instead receive God’s grace and forgiveness to live a godly life.