The other day I was talking to a guy and invited him to the church where I am the pastor. His response was classic and one that I have heard more than once in my life of ministry. He said, “I don’t want to come to your church or any church because they are all full of hypocrites.”
I used to not know how to respond to this. I used to be embarrassed and apologetic about this. But no more. I simply chuckled a bit and said, “You know what, you are right. We are hypocrites. We definitely at times say one thing and do another. Sometimes we act like we know everything. We even sometimes think we are better than everyone else. Everybody is a hypocrite on some level, but we gather so that God can make us less and less hypocritical and more and more like Him. That process is slower for others (especially me) but it is a process I want to be a part of nonetheless.”
The man did not come to church with me, but I am confident in the response that I gave.
Two of the men that I am finding close proximity to lately from the Bible are Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. These guys were part of the groups, according to scripture, that were diametrically opposed to Jesus – The Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. These men were pious, they were list makers, rule followers and probably for the majority of their lives followed an empty, non satisfying form of religion. They thought they were better than everyone else. They missed the fact that their pursuit of holiness was not rooted in themselves but in a relationship with Jesus.
I identify with these men because so often I pursue holiness based on my own merits and I act like I have all things figured out. I make my lists and shine the light on all of the things that I do well (hiding all of my sin as best I can). I would have been a good Pharisee or part of the religious council – no doubt!
But something happened to these men. THEY MET JESUS. They met Him and their lives changed. How do we know this? We find these men at the foot of the cross – contrary to what the rest of the men were doing – they were gathering the body of Jesus and placing Him in a tomb. They had a relationship with Him. They loved Him. Were they perfect? Nope. Did they occasionally still fall back into being religious know-it-alls? I’m sure they did. But they had been changed and were being changed daily by the Savior. So these hypocrites found hope.
I have found the same hope. Am I a hypocrite? Absolutely. Do I sometimes say one thing (or even preach it) and do another? Most certainly! Do I have it all figured out? Sometimes I think I do, but I’m not even close. But one thing I know…I have been changed completely by the love of Jesus and he is making me less religious and more like Him with every day that goes by. Now, I won’t completely look like Him until He comes back for me, but He loves me and is transforming me every day.
So if God can take this hypocrite – of which I am the worst – and do a work in me, I am certain He can do the same in you and anyone else. He is the hope for all of us hypocrites and I am thankful.