I was reading various online articles which I do in the course of research about the many issues I address in my column. A perennial issue raised by critics of Christianity is that those who claim to believe the Scriptures do not always behave according to what they claim to believe.
Critics are quick to quote Christ saying Christians should “not judge,” Matthew 7:1 (without considering the context of Christ’s words) but are quick to judge a believer as a hypocrite if they don’t live up to what they expect a Christian to be. So much for “judge not.”
Yet, some of the criticisms are justified, and what should be our response to genuine contradictions between Christian belief and behavior?
A simple answer would be that not all Christians share the same beliefs and subsequently do not behave the same, but that ignores the fact that Christians do share a common core of beliefs about what is morally acceptable.
As one writer said, “Christians of all stripes are opposed to cursing, skipping church, to disrespecting parents, to divorce, to cheating on taxes, to lying and gossiping, to greed, and on and on.”
My first response is not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually is a Christian. It should not surprise anyone that there are nominal Christians, those who are Christian in name only. They say they are a Christian but do not live as one.
Paul addressed this issue in his letter to Titus, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed,” Titus 1:16. And James addresses this dichotomy between what people say and do when he writes, “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” James 2:14. If what you say you believe does not translate into practice it is doubtful that is saving faith.
Then there are those believers who are sincere but imperfect. You may have seen the bumper sticker that says, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” That is a true statement. None of us are perfect, even our critics, and that is why we needed a Savior who is perfect and offers us forgiveness.
Each believer is on a separate faith journey and is at different levels of Christian maturity. Some may seem “more” perfect than others but none of us are. So there will always be critics. What we must not do is allow our imperfections and the criticism of others cause us to forsake the pursuit of holiness.
Some may subscribe to the philosophy “fake it till you make it,” but Christianity is one of those places where you will not make it if you fake it. “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves,” James 1:22-24.
Sadly, most of the criticisms levied against believers only serve to make critics feel comfortable in their unbelief.