As a pastor, I have many times heard Christians tell me that they feel like a hypocrite.
That sentiment often results in them not wanting to come to church until they "quit being a hypocrite." They don't feel like they can share the Gospel because they are "such a hypocrite." They could never serve God until they have victory over a certain sinful behavior and "quit being such a hypocrite."
And then there is the classic statement of many unbelievers: "The Church is FULL of hypocrites"! I say that it's not! The greater percentage of hypocrites are outside of the church.
Regarding hypocrisy, there is a great misunderstanding among many Christians, many of whom are the sweetest and most tenderhearted people in the Church.
The misunderstanding goes like this:
1. I am a Christian.
2. I know how a Christian should live.
3. I don't always live that way.
4. Therefore, I am a hypocrite.
That line of thinking is a huge error that exists among many of God's true children.
A hypocrite can best be defined as a play actor who wears a mask: Someone who intentionally pretends to be someone or something they aren't. They purposely deceive and pretend. They don't want people to know the truth about them. They want people to think highly of them but seek to gain that recognition through deceptive means.
THAT is a hypocrite.
The dear people who come to me, believing themselves to be hypocrites, are the first to declare their failures. They share that they struggle with sin, that they do things they wished they didn't do, and that they fail to do what they ought to do. They are generally hard on themselves and in no way pretend to be something that they aren't. They are NOT hypocrites.
Well, what are they then? They are Christians who struggle with sin. They do make mistakes; they sometimes do give in to temptation; and they may go astray. They indeed may have faults, but hypocrisy isn't one of them. They are honest about who they are and how they want to change.
In my experience, a hypocrite will NOT come and share openly about their sins, but strive to put on a good Christian masquerade. They know the Bible, they talk and sound like Christians, but deep inside, they know they are liars and pretenders. THEY are the true hypocrites.
These dear saints who believe themselves to be hypocrites, aren't. The hypocrite is the one who won't be honest. The understanding of this situation is entirely backwards.
So Christian, do you struggle with sin? Do you feel like a failure? Are you keenly aware of what you ought to do, but don't do? Have you been one willing or wanting to share your failures with others. If that is the case, then know this: You are NOT a hypocrite. You are a struggling Christian who has a place in God's Church and needs to be among the saints.
I doubt that any true hypocrite might be reading this, but if you are, you are in bondage to your lie. Your masquerading makes you a prisoner, and Jesus wants to free you.
1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man".
Translation: we all struggle with many of the same problems and sins. Your struggle is not unique to you. Others share it too. You are not alone in your sins and temptations.
John 8:36, Jesus said, "If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed".
Are there degrees of hypocrisy? Yes, I think so. But as we realize our sins, and as we are willing to share that struggle with others, know this: You are not a hypocrite. You may be sinning, and if you are, you need to repent, but hypocrisy is not present when one is confessing.
Finally, remember that God sees behind every mask, but He loves us in spite of our masquerades, and longs to set us free.