I’ve heard it before and I’m sure you have too—the common skeptic complaint that all Christians are hypocrites. To back up this claim, many point to being burned by a Christian in the past, abuse that has taken place in the church, or media portrayals of Christians, and come to the conclusion that because of that failure, Christianity must be a hoax.
I hope to encourage you and equip you to not only respond, but be able to steer these types of conversations into great opportunities to share the gospel. There is no one-sized-fits-all approach to any evangelistic endeavor, but here are a few steps you could take to steer this type of conversation somewhere eternally productive.
A quick reminder: Just like in any other evangelistic conversation, your speech needs to be gracious and Christ-like (Colossians 4:6). Our message of grace needs to be said in a tone of grace—we don’t want to be hypocrites!
1. When someone complains that all Christians are hypocrites, tell the person that they are right.
Thinking that all Christians are hypocrites is in line with Scripture and what Jesus taught. Jesus spoke against hypocrisy and railed the Pharisees for putting on an outwardly religious show but forsaking a deeper spiritual life (Luke 11:42). Because we are all sinners (including Christians), we all are hypocritical in one way or another.
Responding this way might catch them off guard by giving them a compliment. Most people won’t mind having something good in common with Jesus—in fact, they’ll like it. Tell them that the Bible says all people have sinned and that hypocritical Christians are what you would expect in a world tainted by sin.
You could also share that when a Christian doesn’t live up to God’s standard, that doesn’t make God’s standard false but rather shows the value of God’s standard. When the world sees a hypocritical Christian who cheats, neglects the poor and hates others, this shows the value of the Christian virtues of honesty, charity and love.
2. Explain sin and how nobody measures up to God’s perfect standard.
People will be glad to hear that Jesus agrees with them—but probably won’t be too thrilled to find out that they don’t measure up to God’s standard either. But everyone who comes to believe the good news has to believe the bad news first. You may want to say something like:
“The Bible also teaches that we are all sinners and have been hypocrites. You, me, the hypocrites you just mentioned—everyone. We’ve all failed to love God above everything (something due Him as creator) and we’ve failed to love others by lying, stealing, hating and living for ourselves.