My daughter informed me yesterday that the church is full of hypocrites.
Stop the presses!
It's a news flash!
I had no idea that people come to church with impure motives, and smile when they don't even like you, and really don't mean it when they sing "All to Jesus I Surrender." I'm shocked.
Of course, it's nice to know that God has rounded up all the hypocrites and put them in church buildings — at least on Sunday mornings — so that all the people in the world who have pristine motives and clear consciences don't have to put up with them.
She's right, you know. There are hypocrites in the church. There are Christians who would fight to the death over the inspiration of the Bible, but who rarely take it down off the shelf to read for themselves. There are Christians who would defend the importance of the church, but think nothing of gossiping about and slandering its members.
I am rarely surprised anymore, but still frequently amazed at some of the attitudes that some Christians have. We must amaze and distress the Lord with the inconsistency between our beliefs and behaviors — our ability to believe one thing while living another. I'm not talking about those whose lives don't come up to their ideals. We're all guilty of that. The Lord wants us to set goals, especial the goal of being like Christ. He also knows that we will fall short.
The hypocrite is different. The hypocrite sets a standard for everyone else and then another standard for himself. She makes demands on others that she has no intentions of fulfilling in her own life. He exempts himself from any real genuine pursuit of holiness. She exempts herself from the demands of true discipleship. Secretly, he assumes his superiority over others. She believes that she deserves special treatment by God.
Of all the sins that Jesus confronted, none received a more scathing rebuke than hypocrisy. (Want to experience Jesus' angry criticism of hypocrites, go read Matthew 23 then go compare it with the nature and heart of God found in Psalm 23. Perhaps Jesus reserves such harsh words for hypocrisy because hypocrisy is the outward expression of a heart that is too full of self to have room for God.
Yes, Virginia, there are hypocrites in the church ... and folks who wrestle with just about every other kind of sin. After all, it was one of God's greatest apostles who said, "What I say is true, and you should fully accept it: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the worst of those sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15 ERV)
Now, whether hypocrites and other sinners being in attendance is a valid excuse for exempting yourself from church, you'll have to take that up with God. He might decide you need to be in there with all the rest of us who don't quite measure up to the high standards of our calling. And, yes, even in your most honest moments, he might want you to be there with those who also struggle with hypocrisy.
"Why do you notice the small piece of dust that is in your brother's eye, but you don't notice the big piece of wood that is in your own eye? Why do you say to your brother, 'Let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye'? Look at yourself first! You still have that big piece of wood in your own eye. You are a hypocrite. First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3-5 ERV)