When I first made a decision to join the church and follow Jesus, my initial hesitation had nothing to do with God. I believed in God. I was in love with Jesus. It was just Jesus' followers that I had concerns about.
Back then, I was in my junior year of college and I would see the same people who went to church Sunday morning at parties with me the night before doing all the things they were repenting for the next day. Every time I saw this kind of behavior I thought to myself, "Hypocrites."
Even before I really knew what theology was, it was apparent to me that all churches seemingly had theological inconsistencies.
I would hear in one breath how "pro-life" the church was, but it all just seemed to be talk. When girls got pregnant while they were in high school or at college there was little or no support for them from the church. Actually, from what I could tell, the churchgoers were actually the hardest on such girls, often leaving no room for God's grace to redeem the situations. They were isolated and alone, often castigated by even their own "Christian" families. I would hear later how so many young women I knew had had secret abortions because they felt like they had no other options. I remember hearing these stories and my heart being hardened against "God's people."
I also would often hear how important the "family unit" was to God and, even more emphatically, how important Christian marriage was. Yet, the more I observed the more I saw the church universal encouraging people to get married without doing its due diligence by requiring sufficient pre-martial counseling. Being a child of divorce myself I remember being sensitive to couples in the church who would eventually give up in frustration. Over the years I saw marriage after marriage dissolve. With no spiritual foundation on which to base their relationships, divorce plagued the church and children of such failed relationships blatantly suffered. I was angered by the irresponsibility of the church.
Issues like these and others that we commonly read of every day in the news made me despise the church. I remember thinking to myself, "I never want to be like those people." That was until the day I realized my judgment of "those" people made me just as hypocritical as them. Sure, I could be the armchair believer and critique every move that every Christian I knew made -- but the difference between them and me became blatantly clear. At least they were trying to follow Christ, even if poorly. I was simply refusing to try because critiquing and complaining was more comfortable for me.
Confronted by this reality I then had a choice. I could either a.) Continue to be a hypocrite and actively remain as part of the problem, or b.) Admit that I, too, am often a hypocrite and try to be part of a solution.
I think that at some point or another in our lives we all have this fundamental choice to make: We can either admit who we really are and attempt to address the problems we face or we can deny who we are and live out our folly fully.
So where are you today with this choice? Ask yourself: How am I helping to be part of God's grace-filled solution for the world today? If you determine that you need a change in your life there is good news: Jesus loves hypocrites.
The Rev. Christopher Benek is the associate pastor of family ministries at Providence Presbyterian Church. Read his blog at www.christopherbenek.com.