Ask anyone on the street what their biggest problem with Christians is and many will undoubtedly respond, "They're all hypocrites!" This is not a recent phenomenon, as even Mahatma Gandhi is known to have said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.” I for one don’t need to be told that I’m a hypocrite; I already know that. And to be fair, this label is not unique to followers of Jesus - it’s a human thing.
But our culture has targeted Christians as the main culprits of hypocrisy and it isn't shy about calling us out! Scathing accusations are hurled against the cornered believer: “Love your neighbor, huh?! Christians are the first ones to cut me off in traffic!”
Sadly, much of the criticism is well-deserved. Many studies have shown that there is little outward difference in the behaviors and attitudes of professing Christians when compared with those who claim no religious beliefs. Far worse are the “Christian” elements in our culture who say and do awful things that in no way reflect the teachings and character of Christ. These modern-day Pharisees may represent only a small percentage of Christians in America, but they unfortunately tend to be the most outspoken or covered by the media and, in the eyes of secular culture, their example speaks for the rest of us.
In light of this reality, many Christian artists feel immobilized. They may want to share the Gospel through their art, but they question the value of making public statements, knowing their failures will also be on display for all to see.
The struggle is real.
Yet as I’ve said, hypocrisy is not unique to Christians - so why have we been singled out? One reason is that we live in the age of relativism. The slogan of our day is, “You have your opinion, and I have mine.” This is fantastic because, with no clearly defined rules, relativists can escape the clutches of the “hypocrite” label. After all, you can’t fail to live up to a standard that doesn’t exist. The Christian’s beliefs are, however, in plain sight: just grab a bible - it’s all there! When we fail, the whole world knows it. So what do we do?
Christian artists have evaded the hypocrisy label in many ways.
One response has been to surrender to the spirit of our age and relativize the Christian faith. We blur the lines of our beliefs to accommodate a culture that bitterly recoils from all absolutes. This approach serves to mitigate the criticism because what secular people want more than anything is moral freedom. They don’t care if you are living up to your beliefs, as long as you don’t impose those beliefs on them.
Another popular strategy is to accept the label. “You’re right; we’re hypocrites! We’re all awful and incapable of anything good!” Of course, on some levels this is true. Our behavior doesn’t save us - only surrender to Jesus does. I believe these responses are both unnecessary and unhelpful.
The “Don’t be a hypocrite!” voices have become so forceful, that we have forgotten the true Gospel! We’re not perfect, but He is! We don’t have to fear hypocrisy. To be clear, I’m not talking about conscious, deliberate hypocrisy. I am speaking about the inescapable fact that there will always be a gap between who we are called to be, and who we are.
Armed with the proper understanding of the Gospel, we can get on with the job of becoming more like Jesus in action and attitude, in service and love, all the while knowing that failure is part of the process. By God’s grace, we can come to peace with the fact that our lives are inching closer to a goal that we will never fully achieve on this earth.
Don’t let the accusation of hypocrisy silence your convictions! Absolute truth and grace are not mutually exclusive. As a Christian artist, you can stand up for your beliefs without the precondition of perfection. This lie is a tactic of the enemy and has relegated us to the sidelines at a time when our voices are more needed than ever!
Our message is this: “Grace has rescued me, and I have been made new. Though I fail along the way, over time I will look more like Jesus.” We can profess this message with confidence, because in Christ, we know who we are. As Matt Chandler often says, “Yes! We are hypocrites, and there is room for one more!”.
- Ben Pierce