The moment I dread most when meeting new people is when they ask me, “What do you do for a living?” As soon as I let them know I’m a pastor, I can see the look of discomfort on their faces as they think back to all the things they have just said. It’s often accompanied with an, “Oh, sorry for swearing” or “My cousin was involved in ministry once,” as they attempt to find some sort of connection to my profession.
Though I’m tempted to share some strange bit of theology to freak them out, I do all I can to help people feel comfortable and not feel the need to apologize for anything they said or did prior to knowing I was a pastor. Often times, I find people immediately try to distance themselves from me and our conversation when they learn I am connected to church ministry. Sure, it might be my choice of cologne that causes them to back away, but I think something deeper is going on. To be honest, this type of response is one of the biggest reasons I didn’t want to be a pastor.
I get it. I grew up in the era of televangelism, with Christian leaders casting judgment on TV while asking for money to buy private jets and vacation homes. Most often, these public Christian figures would soon find themselves embroiled in scandal, receding to the shadows in disgrace. Even as someone who wanted to follow Jesus, this type of hypocritical behavior was a huge barrier for me.
What about you? Is your primary view of Christians that they are a bunch of hypocrites? Do you ever wonder if Christians are purposely trying to bamboozle people for money and power, like the televangelists of my youth? Or perhaps you’ve met some Christians who talked about God’s love but acted in judgmental ways. Maybe their hypocrisy has wounded you and you want nothing to do with Christians or the church.
Are Christians hypocrites? You bet! It actually feels pretty therapeutic to just get that out there, doesn’t it? For those of us who follow Jesus, we are well aware of our tendency toward hypocrisy. Jesus challenges us to love our neighbors, yet we’re still drawn to care more about ourselves. Perhaps you have felt the burn of this reality.
The good news is that everyone is prone to hypocrisy—Christian or not. If we are willing to take an honest look at ourselves, regardless of our perspectives on faith, we will find a life riddled with broken promises and inconsistencies.
Over 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions are broken by February. We are all adept at saying one thing and doing another. I’m committed to shopping local, until Amazon has that incredible deal. I’ll never eat fast food again, until the McRib is back (So good.). I’m going to cut my carbon footprint until I realize how much I hate biking. Even with the best intentions, our beliefs often don’t match our actions. It’s just part of being human.
But that doesn’t make it ok. The hypocrisy of many Christians has caused too many searching, hurting people to walk away from the idea of faith and religion. It’s resulted in countless people disregarding a loving, forgiving God because of how imperfectly we represent Jesus to the world around us.
I hate when I realize that I’ve been hypocritical. I can’t begin to express to you the pain I’ve felt when I know I’ve broken a promise, let someone down, or failed to follow through on a commitment. Have you ever felt that way? One of the things I love about Easter is that it reminds me that Jesus accomplished exactly what he said he would. For all of His promises of new life, restoration, freedom from shame, victory of death—He came through. Everything He preached, He backed up with action. Easter reminds me that Jesus doesn’t make promises he can’t keep. Even if His followers get stuck in hypocrisy, Jesus never does. In a world full of hypocrisy, Jesus is and has been the only one to be completely, unequivocally non-hypocritical. I love that. You might not believe that, but if you don’t, I challenge you to discover who Jesus really is this Easter.
Jon Taylor is the campus pastor at Eagle Brook’s White Bear Lake campus. Jon has been married to his wife, Karla, for 14 years, and they have three kids—Charlie, Sydney, and Crosby. In his spare time, Jon loves spending time with his family, making music, and watching the Minnesota Twins.