It seems with many today, those two terms are redundant and interchangeable.
No matter what we say or what we do, people will call us hypocrites. For instance, part of our faith requires we help the poor, the orphan and the widow, yet there are countless examples of many Christians who don’t.
We consider adultery and lying sins, yet we support leaders and politicians who have. Scripture warns against gossip, yet how many of us gossip all over the place?
I submit that to be a Christian is to embrace our own hypocrisy. In many ways we can’t have one without the other.
Paul even said (Romans 7:14-25), “So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”
Christians are required to acknowledge two things: That Jesus is the son of God who died for us, and that we are sinful creatures. As long as we live we will never be sinless. Sure, we try not to sin, and many times we succeed, but as many times as we refrain, we also give in. We simply can’t help ourselves. I still gossip. I envy and covet, and I too often take the Lord’s name in vain. I even hate, which as far as God is concerned, that’s murder (See 1 John 3:15).
Jesus knew this, which is why he told us not to judge (see Matthew 7:1-6). He once convinced a crowd not to stone an adulterous woman by saying, “Let the one who has not sinned throw the first stone.” (See John 8:1-11)
Aside: I don’t think the irony of Jesus being the only one qualified to throw that stone was lost on him.
The problem with people’s perception of Christians these days (sometimes deserved, sometimes not) is that we focus too much on people’s wrong-doings. We appear to forget that Jesus never pointed out a person’s sin without first offering them grace. The adulterous woman is one example, but also the Samaritan woman at the well (see John 4:4-38), and many others, man and woman, rich and poor.
After all, Jesus didn’t walk into my room one day, give me a list of all my horrible thoughts and deeds and say, “Clean all that up first, and then I will forgive you.” Quite the reverse, actually.
Am I a hypocrite? Yes, and worse. But that’s irrelevant, because I still try to be the best person I can be. Not because it’s required for my salvation, but as an expression of my gratitude for Jesus saving me when I wasn’t being the best person I can be. Hell, I’m still not even close, but at least I’m working at it. Either way, it doesn’t erase God’s love, nor his grace.
Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. (Romans 3:18-22)