In my first letters, I've addressed two big reasons that people give for not being part of a church: that they don't need the church to be Christian and that worship is boring.
Here, I want to talk about a third reason: "The church is full of hypocrites."
Our word hypocrite is a transliteration of a Greek word found in the New Testament, hupokrites. It was a term originally used of actors, people who have one identity but act another way on stage. It came to be used of any person who "acted" in ways different from the beliefs they claimed to hold.
Honestly, the church is full of hypocrites. I'm one of them. I say one thing and often, live another; think one thing and do another.
In my better moments, I do love God and I do love my neighbor, as Jesus commands. In such moments, I'm a standup guy with pure thoughts, pure motives, pure actions.
But during the other twenty-three-hours-and fifty-five-minutes of my days, I'm not so pure. I’m a lot like Saint Paul, who wrote in the New Testament portion of the Bible: “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.”
A war constantly rages inside any person who genuinely tries to live out their faith in Jesus Christ. It's a conflict between the new part of us that wants to follow Christ and the old part that wants to get our own ways. From moment to moment, we Christians need God's help in order to choose which side will win this internal war.
And this is where the church comes in. A man told me once, "The church would be an empty place if God didn't let the sinners in." Every person who worships in every church is a sinner, most of whom want to live more like Christians.
The church is God's hospital for hypocrites, the best place for us to come to confess our sins, receive God's forgiveness, hear God's Word for our lives, and draw strength for the battle to become less hypocritical and more authentic as followers of Christ.
The church is God's support group for recovering hypocrites. Like those recovering from other addictions, church people sometimes find the allure of sin overpowering. At the party, the husband becomes unkind in his remarks about his wife. The teen fibs about why he couldn't make his curfew. The woman gets so carried away with her frustrations at work that she begins to gossip about a co-worker. The preacher uses God's name for something other than prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.
The church is where hypocrites like these--hypocrites like me--need to be.
If you ever say one thing and do another, the church may be the best place for you too.