Man looking at reflection in window

Human nature and the Church

So when someone tags us with the hypocrisy label, how ought Christians to respond?

Paul urges us “not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3). In other words, we need to develop a clear-eyed, realistic view of ourselves, and our place in the church.

I suppose the only one who is not surprised to find weakness in the church is the Lord himself. God’s word, really from the start, depicts humans as flawed and mistake-prone. The church is thoroughly infiltrated by the “human factor.” Think about how candid the Bible is even about its own heroes: Noah became drunk; Abraham lied about his relationship with Sarah; David, the man after God’s own heart, committed adultery; Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, made foolish decisions.

Humans are not as evil as the Calvinist makes us out to be. We are not totally depraved. Nor are we as wonderful as the humanists make us out to be, sweetness and light.

A college friend of mine wrote me several years ago declaring he had “finally” found a church where the members “actually” lived out the Christian life the way they were supposed to. I told him he was too old to think any human organization (congress? The United Nations? The Red Cross?) was anything but crippled with human frailties. Well, you might have guessed this, it took a year or two for him to leave that new church because there was a power struggle between two leaders. He was disillusioned all over again.

You really would have thought my friend, who is after all a man in his fifties, would have known better than that! Paul spoke of his internal struggle (Romans 7:21-23). Raging in the heart of the apostle Paul himself was a war, a titanic battle between forces of good and evil. I am stunned by this: if Paul fought this battle within his own heart, perhaps I could be a little more patient with myself and with my brethren?

We know that the presence of flawed church members does not change the fact that God lives, that he judges and commands that we follow him. We know that we are probably not much better than those other Christians whom we think are a problem.

We’re all human. We should not be guilty either of arrogance (“I’m not the problem; everyone else is!”) or false humility (“I’m useless. I think I’ll just quit”). We are to grow. Mature. Develop. Hopefully the years will see a more Christ-like spirit in us, less hypocrisy, more effective service for Christ. That’s the realistic goal.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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