The number on complaint I hear from those who reject Christianity is that churches are full of hypocrites. Their theory goes, “Since the church is full of hypocrites I get a pass on having anything to do with God. I mean I’m not nearly as bad as some I see in churches so if God grades on a curve I’m gold.”
The number one fear I hear from Christians is losing their salvation. That somehow they’ll get to the end of life and have missed reading a chapter they needed for the final exam. And all the hypocrites in church kind of prove this.
Interestingly both are rooted in a common reality. One, that when I was a pastor, I can tell you I experienced up close and personal.
I used to say, “Some of the best people in the world go to church. And some of the most messed up people in the world go to church too.”
So how can this be? And how does it answer both questions?
Jesus told a story that I think points to the answer.
A farmer sowed some wheat yet before it grew an enemy came and laced the field with a weed that looks a lot like wheat as it grows.
The rains came and the plants grew but as they matured the field workers came to the farmer and said, “We don’t know what happened. The seed was clean and we were careful but the field is full of weeds.”
The farmer replied, “An enemy must have sown in the weeds.”
The workers asked, “Shall we pull up the weeds?”
The farmer replied, “No let them grow so we don’t uproot the wheat. At the harvest we’ll separate them out.”
Later Jesus explained the parable that the good seed are those who have given their lives over to God to live in a relationship with him. And the weeds are those still sold out to the dark side.
So ok, how does this answer the above questions?
To the first question, in churches there are people who are still living in the dark side. Sometimes they come in because they’re spiritually hungry or hurting. Or sometimes in an ego trip to worm their way into power.
To the second question, the wheat never changes into weeds. The wheat stays wheat and in the end is gathered up into the kingdom.
Third, Jesus gives people who are honestly seeking him the opportunity to enter into that relationship. Here’s where we depart from the story a bit because in life sometimes weeds change into wheat. Darkness gives way to light.
Fourth, in the end it’ll all be sorted out.
In fact Jesus says of those who enter into God’s kingdom, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom.”*
Not only will it all get sorted out but our lives will truly shine now and in the life to come.
So of course there are hypocrites in the church. It just proves God’s kingdom is real and forever.
What has been your experience?
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*Matthew 13: 43 (NLT)
Photo Credit: Malcolm Carlaw (Creative Commons)