Are Christians Hypocrites?

presentation1“I don’t go to church because churches are full of hypocrites!” This is an increasingly common sentiment. But is it true? Are churches full of hypocrites?

Duh. Are AA meetings full of alcoholics? I’m a Christian, though I rarely use the term, preferring “Jesus follower” instead. Why? Well, for starters, it’s used indiscriminately by hundreds of millions who hold few if any actual Christian convictions.

But in another sense, I don’t deserve to call myself a Christian: the word Christian (“like Christ”) was coined by the ancient Romans as a put-down (“Hey, you! You’re like that Jesus guy!”). And I’m not worthy of such a put-down. Yet.

AA members address meetings with, “Hello, I’m __________ and I’m an alcoholic (or addict).” They say this regardless of whether they fell off the wagon yesterday or have been a “recovering alcoholic” for fifty years. Why? Because they know their addiction never really goes away. They live “one day at a time,” and even then they need others to help them do it.

It’s the same with “recovering hypocrites.”*

“Oh, you’re just making excuses,” some may say. “If your Christianity was real, or if Christianity itself was real, you wouldn’t be a hypocrite anymore!”


We live in a broken world. Everyone is broken, and our brokenness takes many forms. Here’s a quick insight into my brokenness: I have ADD and if I had a nickel for every time I’ve ever offended someone by “ignoring” them or “arrogantly” “rolling over” them with my “own ideas” rather than “respecting” “their opinions”—which I missed because I was lost in thought, or watching a car go by, or… (quotes indicate things I’ve been accused of many times)… Well, let’s just say I’d have a corner on the world’s nickel supply. So, to everyone I’ve ever offended: I’m sorry. Seriously.


I didn’t get “saved” from my ADD when I became a Jesus follower any more than short people get saved from their shortness or Scots get saved from their red-headedness.

Everyone is broken. But not everyone’s brokenness is label-able. Many suffer from what I call “normative brokenness,” i.e. undiagnosed pathologies. For example: I know a man who is extremely successful, a real leader of men. Why? Because he believes he should lead. Even when he shouldn’t. He doesn’t understand sensitive or gifted people, and routinely ignores them. Except when he prays. And then—every now and then—God humbles him.

Humility is not “natural” for him because his undiagnosed pathology is hard-wired into him, just as my ADD is into me. He too is a recovering hypocrite. And, no, he didn’t get “healed” of his hypocrisy when he became a Jesus follower either.

What we did get was a way of overcoming our hypocrisies. It’s called prayer. It’s our 12 Step program, our hotline, and our sponsorship all rolled into one. How often do I pray? As often as I need to. Which is pretty much every minute of every hour of every day (I Thessalonians 5:17).

It’s a powerful thing, prayer. But it’s not magic. It only works because there’s Someone at the other end. And it’s gradually changing me despite my broken nature. I’m still me, but now I’m me-in-love-with-Him. And that that makes all the difference.

Life as a recovering hypocrite isn’t a downhill slide into happy land—for me or for the people I’ve wounded. But it’s better than being a hypocrite in denial, which the world has even more of than it does recovering hypocrites.Law+%26+Order+SVU+rapist+anonymous+kelli+giddish+thomas+sadoski

I headed this post with a snipey cartoon because, yes, churches fall short. Or rather their members do. We’re just a bunch of recovering hypocrites, after all. So…want to join us?

You can bring your pathology.

*For this idea, I am indebted to John Fischer who many years back wrote a compelling magazine article entitled “Sinners Anonymous.”

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Are Christians Hypocrites?

  1. Great post. Every time I hear someone say they won’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites, I tell them “yes it is, we want you to join us.”

    What they don’t know is that the church is full of all kinds of broken people, they would likely fit right in.

    God bless.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. London Evans says:

    Great insight. I appreciate this post. It really made me realize how harsh I tend to be on myself for not always being genuine — for being a hypocrite at times. I keep thinking I have to get it right everyday. When in truth, like you say, I’m only a recovering hypocrite, and I need to take it one day at a time. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Appio Hunter says:

    Very well articulated. I love how you express your faith in a way that is deeply personal and respectful of other points of view. “Jesus Follower” has a nice ring to it, especially for someone like me who has rejected religion altogether. I use the term religion because I personally see religions as being manmade institutions that seek to tear people down rather than uplift and enlighten. I do my best to choose my words carefully when talking about religion, because there are those who see religion and spirituality as being the same thing.

    Speaking strictly for myself, I believe that the two are separate, however I remain respectful of everyone’s spiritual path. To me, spirituality is all-encompassing, and it allows for hypocrisies and all of the other imperfections of the human condition. If one were to define “Jesus Follower” as someone who reveres the teachings of Jesus, then I would absolutely fall into that category. I also revere the teachings of Buddha, Muhammed, Lao Tze, and many other spiritual masters who laid the foundations of the world’s great faith traditions.

    I believe that there are universal truths that transcend religion, culture, race, or language. Those truths can be found everywhere, expressed in many ways. I honor the path of every spiritual seeker, regardless of which path they choose to follow. I rejoice with you, Mitch, because of the great peace and happiness you find. That’s always a beautiful thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joe Dallas says:

    I don’t know which I love more – the post or the cartoon. Terrific, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great post and thank you for following mine. When I became a Christian I was very broken. Not that I’m not now. I was junk yard broken, and God put a engine in me! An engine for Good! His love changed me! gave me a new passion in life to share with others what he did for me. How can junk share? Who wants to share junk? no one! Except those who see the value in the junk! See the beauty! That’s what God gave me! I’m a hypocrite, sorry, but I am! As much as I try to be Christ,
    I just cant do it. All I can do is what He asked me to! Go to all the world and share the truth, Jesus set me free!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Mitch Teemley

  7. mitchteemley says:

    Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:

    “If you’re trying to prove your heart is in the right place, it isn’t.” (David Schmidtz). I first posted the article below when my blog was new. Time for a revisit. Blessings till it hurts, Mitch

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Matt says:

    Really liked this, Mitch, and glad you reshared, as I’d have otherwise not seen it.

    The AA analogy is fantastic.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, and displaying your humility.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. “For me or the people I’ve wounded”.. Ouch, hits close to home. Praying!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Life as a recovering hypocrite, love it!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. carhicks says:

    A very unique way of putting it. My minister spoke of the same thing just this last Sunday, but with a little different twist to it. Never get tired of hearing it, we are all broken, we just need to ask to be healed, unfortunately over and over again.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. William Hill says:

    Thank you, Mitch, for a well written piece. I agree that the term “Christian” can be a perjorative, especially to those who are not “churched”. And yes, I dare say all Christians – as those of any religion – are hyprocrites, it’s our nature to believe one way and, at times, to succumb to our baser nature and speak or say something else, especially when it’s expedient. As for me, my definition of a Christian is one who tries to follow what Jesus himself said – I keep close at hand a little booklet entitled, “Jesus said…” that quotes only those parts from scripture the words attributed to Jesus on any subject he is recorded to have spoken to. When I’m accused of hyprocracy for not following some biblical ordinance, my response is, “What did Jesus say about it?” The answer, if they’re knowledge, is usually, “Nothing.” So there you have it, if Jesus had deemed it important, I’m sure he would have mentioned it. I’m well aware, having been ordained, of the inspired nature of all scripture, that nothing Jesus said changed one wit of it, and it’s importance as to how we should live and be. But, for me, the bottom line – what we must listen to and follow to be a Christian – is what Jesus said. Everything else is secondary, no matter it’s value. So, I, too, am a follower of Jesus, even if others consider me at times to be a hypocritical “Christian” when I don’t meet their expectations of what’s important. If Jesus had no opinion, then nor do I.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Yeah Mitch, my name is Larry and I’m a grateful recovering hypocrite. I’m still a work in progress. I’m not perfect yet but I sure ain’t what I used to be. Seriously, I love the term brokenness. We all live in brokenness and are in need of the Master Repairman. Thanks for your posts

    Liked by 2 people

  14. BelleUnruh says:

    I’m an alcoholic who went to AA for a few years. The meetings were so Spirit-filled and holy that I used to wish church was just like AA meetings. People there accept you exactly as you are. They don’t argue with you or try to change you. They just share their lives, their ups and downs. They also share love, lots and lots of love.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Jon says:

    Mitch, I really liked your closing picture, for it illustrates one stupendous thing that AA meetings have going for them. As #BelleUnruh observed there can be great spiritual progress when the attendees are sharing their personal experiences face to face, telling of challenges and changes empowered by that Spirit. Testimony of the many can be much more powerful than advice from a single one in front, while the rest passively reflect on the back of the heads of their fellows.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. How true. I will share, share, share.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Are Christians Hypocrites? | Just Thinkin'

  18. To be human is to be a hypocrite. I cannot believe for one minute that no one has ever experienced being a hypocrite. Being a hypocrite is just one of many flaws that make up our human nature. All part of learning to strive to be a better person.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Paula says:

    Glad you decided to re-post this. My take on the comments people make about not going to church because a church is full of hypocrites is this: If this is that person’s conviction, then that person mustn’t go to any place where he or she would engage in any type of human interactions. Like work, school, the grocery store, the library, a service organization, a favorite cafe. You get the idea. One would have to leave Planet Earth. It’s not only Christ followers who can act in a hypocritical way. You’ve captured this idea nicely. Thanks again for honesty and openness about something ticking along in us all.

    (I’m a recovering know-it-all and am not ashamed to admit it in my personal descriptions on Facebook and Twitter. And on any given day, Mitch, I could be the biggest hypocrite I know.)

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Nancy Ruegg says:

    I think it was Ann Landers (in response to a reader berating church-attending hypocrites) who said: “What better place for them to be?” I am so thankful for the church families I’ve been a part of over the years — families that weren’t perfect but loved, encouraged, supported, and laughed together as God carried on his good work in us (Philippians 1:6).

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Heather says:

    For some of us, the healing process can be excruciatingly slow and painful…

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      For “some”? Don’t be so modest, Heather! I think “slow and painful” is an accurate description for ALL of us! Although excessive pride seems to guarantee a greater degree of “excruciatingly” for some of us–me included.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. aresonantone says:

    A very good reminder on the nature of being a sinful human. I always remember Boncher’s Maxim, particularly in times like this:

    “Everyone’s a hypocrite. After that it is only a question of subject and scale.”

    And when challenged on that, again when I forget my own sinful state I remember Boncher’s Corellary:

    “Show me a man who claims to not be a hypocrite, and I will show you a liar.”

    Thanks for the reminder of all this, for it is a great reminder as to why we need Jesus and the power of prayer in combatting our sinful nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Mitch, I so appreciate you reading my latest post. I like the setup of your blog and its myriad ideas represented. I like how each “piece” of you blends into the next. Re: this post, I am often one of those who feel that churches are full of hypocrites. I am naturally cynical and harsh, so I recognize that I have to be more forgiving of others, I suppose hypocrisy lives in all of us, and the addendum I might add is, “look in the mirror for hypocrisy before accusing others of it.” However, I’m still not convinced that charges of hypocrisy should be dropped. Jesus called out his followers for their own hypocrisy. I often think pastors and religious leaders are blind to their own, which is what makes it more dangerous. Leaders have a responsibility to be self-reflecting and take this criticism seriously, in my opinion. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Thanks, Caroline! I couldn’t agree with you more about the responsibility of Jesus followers and pastors to deal with their own shortsightedness and sins. The fact that we’re ALL hypocrites in varying degrees and ways is no excuse not to deal with those hypocrisies, as you (and Jesus) truly point out!


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