Serving as a hospital chaplain, I approached the bed of a man who appeared to be nearing the end of his life. Asking permission to read the Bible to him, I discovered he was in no mood to listen.
“I’m going to tell you what I once told a young minister back home,” he said. “I told him he had plenty of hypocrites in his church and that when he had straightened them out he could return and talk to me.” Then he smugly related how the visiting minister had turned and walked sadly away.
“Now you’re going to have to do the same,” he gloated.
This bitter man had become disillusioned by people he saw as hypocrites many years before our meeting and he had been using them as an excuse for refusing to come to faith ever since that disappointing experience. But he was overlooking the fact that the existence of hypocrites proves the Bible is true. Frauds declare the faithful are genuine.
The checkout person at a restaurant asked to see any twenty dollar bills I was carrying. When I enquired about the reason for her request, she said there were many counterfeit twenties circulating in that area so the police had instructed her to check as many twenties as possible and report any counterfeits found.
Fortunately, all my twenties passed the test but if there had been no genuine twenty dollar bills available no counterfeits would have been made.
Has some professing person of faith let you down? Have you become cynical about people in churches because of the failures of a few? When cynical people raise the hypocrite excuse, what can we do?
Here was my answer to the bitter man who expected me to walk away defeated:
“I haven’t come to you today to talk about imperfect people in the churches, I’m here to tell you about Jesus… and there’s nothing wrong with Him.”
Suddenly the old hypocrite excuse used by this man for many years was no longer adequate for him to use in turning away people who wanted to help him.
Even his story about the young minister who had demonstrated his love for him by coming to visit him when he was sick but had turned and walked sadly away so many years ago now had a hollow ring to it. His boast about a battle won had somehow lost it’s satisfying feeling.
Looking at the imperfections of people who have let us down incubates doubts but focusing on examples of faith in the lives of those who have been positive examples of God’s love being active in their lives enriches our lives and brightens every day.
Millions who exit church services and others who never enter them are defeated by destructive negative attitudes. Negativism is a thief, robbing life of adventure and joy. This enemy affects every institution of life. It weakens families, slows down churches in their outreach and causes its victims to expect little and achieve less.
Let’s stop looking for hypocrites and expect the best in others every day.