How many of them? All of them?
Just to be fair, I won’t accuse you of stereotyping a very large and diverse segment of the world population. I will just assume that your personal experience with Christians has been, well, less than pleasant.
I’ve met them, too. Maybe I’ve even been one of them; I hope not.
I don’t think you mean that EVERY Christian is weird, AND arrogant, AND hypocritical. Maybe they just have one of these ugly traits, maybe two, maybe all three, maybe more! Whatever the case, it seems you have had enough bad experiences with Christians to repel you from ever wanting to be one.
You’re not the only one to be skeptical of Christians. Mark Twain said, “If Christ were here, there is one thing he would not be — a Christian.”
What I want to do with this particular page is to explain what basic, real differences there are between (true) Christians and non-Christians. But I would also like to explain how it is that some who claim to be Christians truly ARE weird, arrogant, and/or hypocritical.
Charge #1: Weirdness
(part one: perceived weirdness)
After hearing Jesus predict His upcoming death and resurrection, many of His listeners said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to Him?” (John 10:20)
When the apostle Paul (who wrote much of the New Testament) was explaining his Christian conversion and the death and resurrection of Jesus to King Herod Agrippa II, he was interrupted by the Judean governor Festus, who said, “You are out of your mind, Paul! … Your great learning is driving you insane.”
Notice that the reason the unbelievers thought Jesus and Paul were weird was not because they were acting irrationally or spouting schizophrenic absurdities, but because they were describing the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. To this day, to believe and preach Jesus’ resurrection is enough to bring charges of religious delusion from the secular, “intellectual” community.
In 1 Corinthians 1:18-29, Paul explains this further:
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe … God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things … so that no one may boast before him.” (emphasis mine)
Though the resurrection of Jesus is a unique event, it is still a historically documented and evidenced event, for those who are willing to examine the evidence. This is definitely not a fantasy, a myth, a fable, or a religious delusion.
To get back to Paul’s statement to the king, when Festus called Paul “insane,” Paul responded by saying, “I am not insane … What I am saying is true and reasonable.” The historical validity of the resurrection is still “true and reasonable” to this day!
(part two: real weirdness)
The problem is, when some Christians find out that the Bible says that they will be misunderstood and mistreated by the world, they figure that it’s their responsibility to be as bizarre as possible “for Jesus.” These people often believe that the more “unworldly” (weird) they act, the more spiritual they must be.
Maybe you’ve even been to a church where the people acted downright wacko. Believe it or not, that’s getting to be quite a popular type of church these days. I won’t get into all the issues of tongue-talking, slain-in-the-spirit, holy laughter, barking, convulsing, etc. However, I do want you to see the apostle Paul’s thoughts on “tongues” in church meetings (however, this could easily be applied to all these supposed “spiritual manifestations”):
“If the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? …. Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Corinthians 14:23, 40)
As for the personality characteristics of a truly spiritual person, Paul writes:
“The fruit of the Spirit is … self-control.”
That should do for now; let’s move on:
Charge #2: Arrogance
(part one: perceived arrogance)
Paul once wrote a disciplinary letter to the Christian church at Corinth (this letter is now known as 1 Corinthians). They were doing a lot of nasty, un-Christian things; for example, they were hoarding food and getting drunk at church, and they were proud of the fact that there was incest among some members. After Paul wrote to tell them that these things should not be so, many responded by saying, “Who does he think he is, telling us what to do in our church? How arrogant!” (2 Corinthians 10:10, my own very loose paraphrase)
In our society, it is generally considered arrogant to voice one’s moral principles, especially if they happen to come from the Bible. But for a Christian, the Bible is THE source of moral guidance. If a Christian makes a moral statement that is based on biblical teaching, he or she is not automatically guilty of acting “superior” to everyone else. In fact, a consistent Christian would not only point out the difference between right and wrong but they would also freely admit that they are just as sinful as the next guy. In other words, to proclaim what God says is right or wrong is not automatically the same as arrogance.
On the other hand, however …
(part two: real arrogance)
Some people figure that since they are Christians, or perhaps because they go to a certain church, or because they know a lot of the Bible, or because they have a good family life, or because they don’t do certain “bad” things (like smoke or drink), or because they dress in a way that is more “godly” than everyone else, or because they have had certain “spiritual” experiences that others haven’t had, that they are better than everyone else. That is real arrogance. God hates it, and every true Christian should also hate it.
Paul had many excellent credentials he could have flaunted in front of others in the church (Philippians 3:4-6). However, he believed that all of his rich ethnic heritage and superior religious background ultimately added up to a “loss” in light of the fact that God had mercy on him (vv. 7-8).
When he had to defend his authority to the Corinthian church, the only “resume” he gave them was the one which included his whippings, imprisonments, beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, dangerous surroundings, fatigue, sleeplessness, hunger, poverty, and constant concern for the church (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Another New Testament writer, James, quotes Proverbs 3:34, which says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James also wrote to some people in the church who arrogantly thought they had their lives completely under control, “All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:16)
And to those who think that they are “too holy” to fall into sin, Paul writes:
“If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
(1 Corinthians 10:12)
And now, onto the third charge:
Charge #3: Hypocrisy
Before we get into this, we need to establish exactly what hypocrisy is.
You might think a hypocrite is someone who doesn’t live up to the standards he believes in. Everybody has goals they haven’t yet achieved, and it not hypocrisy to have unachieved goals.
The word “hypocrite” comes from a Greek theatrical term, which literally means, “to answer from under a mask.” A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something they are not; or more simply, a hypocrite is an actor, a fake, a phony.
(part one: perceived hypocrisy)
If hypocrisy is acting, the whole issue of perceived vs. real hypocrisy becomes a little more complex, because a really skilled hypocrite would be very difficult, if not impossible to recognize. They say that in a good murder mystery, the real killer is the one you least expect. Well, in the game of Christian hypocrisy, the best hypocrites know how to keep up appearances at all times.
If you’ve met someone you think is a Christian hypocrite, either he or she is not a very good actor, or perhaps you are being too quick to judge.
For example, if you know that a so-called Christian person stole something after they told you that stealing is a sin, that doesn’t automatically mean they are a hypocrite. They might be a hypocrite, but they might also have had a weak moment. It is the frustrating fact that Christians aren’t immune to doing wrong things; however, they are still fully responsible before God for whatever wrong they have done. AND, whether or not they are a hypocrite doesn’t invalidate the fact that what they said is true: Stealing is still morally wrong. Even a hypocrite can speak some very true things.
(part two: real hypocrisy)
In Matthew 23, Jesus expressed his deep contempt for true religious hypocrites. Here are some of the charges he leveled against them:
- They give out laws to others, but they do not live by them (vs. 3-4)
- They love impressive, public religious displays, and being referred to with religious titles (vs. 5-12)
- They win converts to their own religion, but not to God (vs. 13-15)
- They re-interpret their own laws in order to suit their own purpose (vs. 16-22)
- They emphasize minuscule religious details, yet ignore the most important truths (vs. 23-24)
- They keep the outward appearance clean, while leaving the inside corrupt
- They deny their own sinfulness (vs. 29-36)
This is both hypocrisy AND arrogance; none of these should characterize a true, born-again Christian. If they do, you have good reason to doubt the validity of their faith.
Still, it is possible for even true Christians to do some hypocritical things. Paul accused the apostle Peter of hypocrisy when he ate with non-Jews only when Jews were not around to see. Peter was indeed guilty of acting differently when he was in different circles of people; that could legitimately be called hypocrisy (remember, this is the same Peter who said he didn’t know Jesus on the night He was crucified). Peter did some hypocritical things, because he was still a morally weak human being; however, this does not make him the same kind of hypocrite as the religious leaders that Jesus chewed out in Matthew 23.
Here’s the point of all this: Real hypocrites have existed, do exist, and will continue to exist; but they are more annoying to God than they could ever be to you. And don’t forget, even a hypocrite can speak the truth.
In other words, you can’t ignore the biblical message just because the messenger is a hypocrite (or weird, or arrogant)!