According to a new Barna study, 51 percent of Christians have attitudes and actions more like those of the hypocritical, self-righteous Pharisees than of Jesus. More people identified with the following statements than statements about Christlike actions and attitudes:
- I tell others the most important thing in my life is following God’s rules.
- I don’t talk about my sins or struggles. That’s between me and God.
- I try to avoid spending time with people who are openly gay or lesbian.
- I like to point out those who do not have the right theology or doctrine.
- I prefer to serve people who attend my church rather than those outside the church.
- I find it hard to be friends with people who seem to constantly do the wrong things.
- It’s not my responsibility to help people who won’t help themselves.
- I feel grateful to be a Christian when I see other people’s failures and flaws.
- I believe we should stand against those who are opposed to Christian values.
- People who follow God’s rules are better than those who do not.
The results of the study are scary, but hardly surprising. David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, says that millennials (those born between 1984 and 2002) are leaving the church in droves due to the hypocrisy they perceive inside its figurative doors.
Being blamed for being hypocritical is not new to Christians. The prepackaged evangelical answer is usually something along the lines of, “Yeah, of course the church is full of hypocrites, just look in the mirror!” Yet the fact remains that it is not only unbelievers, but also believers who see and are sickened by the gap between how Christ acted and how we act.
But, instead of jumping in swiftly to tidy our reputations, perhaps the more, uh, Christlike, thing to do is to be brutally honest with ourselves. Yes, we are human. Yes, we sin. We are hypocrites.
Is it enough to rest on our grace-filled laurels, to throw up our hands and adopt some sort of fate-centric c’est la vie attitude toward our accusers?
We wore “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets, and now we giggle at the silliness of it. But maybe it’s a concept worth revisiting. When faced with the mucky world of sin and sinners, what, indeed, did Jesus do?
He filthied his feet loving the ignorant. He told the woman at the well He didn’t condemn her. (What was it He wrote in the dirt?) He put his arms around the children no one else had the time or patience for. He came, and energy drained out of Him when a bleeding woman touched the hem of His coat, and He loved, and He loved, and He loved.
If we would do only a fraction of that, future Barna studies would conclude something else entirely.