As Bible-believing Christians continue to speak out against sinful, seismic social changes and against atrocities enacted in the name of health care, they are met with predictable charges of hypocrisy. “You have no right to protest when people of your faith fail so miserably to tangibly care for the people you claim to champion.” Despite the civilization shaking significance of the evil these Christians decry, some people are far more interested in decrying (sometimes without specific example) the evil of Christian hypocrisy. The mere existence of Christian hypocrisy apparently invalidates all public Christian protests. We could expect such thinking and accusations from opponents of Christianity. What’s unnerving is that these predictable accusations and the imbalanced moral outrage they represent are coming more and more from Bible-believing Christians.
It’s becoming popular among Christians to demand moral perfection from other believers as the necessary prerequisite for legitimate protest against societal sin. Yes, Christians are called to look in the spiritual mirror of God’s law first and to repent of any discovered sin before speaking out against the sins of others, especially the same kinds of sin for which we’re personally or corporately guilty. But inconsistent, imperfect Christian behavior does not invalidate the claims of Christ himself nor their applicability to current events and the people who shape them.
For instance, yes, Christians could do a much better job of caring for children whom abortion-minded parents decide to keep alive. For the honor of Christ and the welfare of severely pressed people, we must do a much better job of opening our hearts and homes to these kids, and to their parents! But that fact must not for one second dim or dampen among us what should be blazing outrage at the for-profit human butchering which occurs in Planned Parenthood clinics. Children are being slaughtered in the womb and sold for parts! Do we really comprehend the hellishness of either, let alone both? It’s hard to believe that we do when we’re more offended by or would rather talk about inconsistency among Christians in living out the Lord’s commands to care for the abused and afflicted.
This is not to say that Christian hypocrisy is excusable. It is to say that such so often becomes an illegitimate conversation stopper when we need all the voices we can get to vie for these precious children, these voiceless victims. Our care for them should never stop at public outcry on their behalf, but nor should public outcry stop when our care for them is insufficient.
The same goes for the “Christians don’t have perfect marriages so we can’t advocate publicly the Bible’s definition of it” thinking. The standard for Christian behavior is Christ, not Christians. His holy word calls to repentance those who hypocritically call him Lord but who do not do what he says, in marriage and all areas of life. And Scripture calls to repentance and also new life people who fundamentally reject his claims of lordship over all of life, and who therefore feel empowered to redefine foundational aspects of society or to disregard the life and dignity of the most defenseless people within it.
As Christians, we must indeed be wary of all forms of hypocrisy, including the hypocrisy of criticizing others’ hypocrisy for criticizing others! Instead of silencing Christian outcries against social evils by calling out the imperfections of the protester, and instead of ignoring that imperfection by protests that are all talk, let’s practice the biblical both/and approach advocated by James: “…let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger … be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves….Religion that is pure and undefiled in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit widows and orphans in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”