Faithful Christianity Means a Walking Hypocrite?

This morning my good friend Adam McLane posted these profoundly truthful words on feeling like a hypocrite. When I read it I quickly remembered a series of conversations I’ve recently had. Before I get into those let me tell you this, even if some may disagree:

I am intentionally, and with a humble spirit, trying my best to live as faithful of a life to God and to others as I possibly can for as long as I am here on earth.

But just because that is my goal doesn’t mean it’s always (or even sometimes) a reality. Therefore because I cannot live up to my standard of life, by default, at a baseline level I am a walking hypocrite. Let’s be honest though; “by default” is only the starting point of my hypocrisies that daily occur. Back to the recent conversations…

In the past eight days I have had three different Christian people ask me in private at separate times if I ever feel like a hypocrite. They asked because they are all leaders in their churches and have recently been feeling like their good intentions to live a successful life is wearing on them. They have to lead each day and preach each week, and each said they felt some type of unknown burden or oppression about having to set some type of “successful” life for their congregations to look-up to. These pastors are struggling with shame and guilt and doubt like the rest of us. But because of who they are they feel like they can’t keep it real all of the time – especially in front of their churches.

That is the problem with church culture today.

We’re setting up believers in Jesus to fail.

From my personal life, I talk in public so much that many people from all over the place call/email/Facebook/tweet/look up to me; asking me for advice and help and a new way forward. Like I have all the answers? I don’t. I try as best as I can to faithful keep moving forward whether sprinting forward or hanging on by the skin of my teeth. And the way I try to live my life and therefore, answer all of those questions, is to keep it real.

Because let’s be honest again … I’m a walking hypocrite.

I prayerfully wish I had the strength and courage to always practice what I preach. I don’t. I prayerfully wish I had some supernatural power to not get so pissed when I feel stabbed in the back. I don’t have that either. I prayerfully wish I always thought the “right” thoughts – pure and holy on a number of different topics. As much as I seem to try, it never quite works out. I prayerfully wish I had the drive to read the Bible and pray for hours on end everyday (let’s throw physical exercise in that category too). Not so much. I prayerfully wish I had to the ability to take-back a bunch of situations where I’ve deeply hurt people, whether intentionally or not. But that’s not going to happen. I prayerfully wish I could have a Jamba-Juice-style-brain-memory-boost to remember things better and more rightly, so that I would never be embarrassed or ashamed or nervous to speak about my memories. Well, nothing points to that happening either.

I carry a bunch of guilt and shame and doubt everyday of my life. And it scares me to death that I’m leading folks in the wrong direction. It’s been really hard for me to ‘get up’ to teach recently (not normal for me!) because all I want to do is honor God through my actions and my words while simultaneously honoring all of humanity in the same breath; which I know I’m trying to do, but in a God-fearing way not sure I actually ever accomplish.

But the more I think about it the more I am coming to a new conclusion I’ve never thought about before:

You will never feel like a hypocrite if you’re not intentionally, boldly and sustainably living a countercultural faith in real-time in the public. (and by “public” I’m not referring to media or blogs, I’m referring to your own life, family, friends, co-workers and community)

Here’s the kicker: That’s why it’s so easy for the critics and gatekeepers out there to point a finger at those of us who are. It’s because they legitimately don’t feel like a hypocrite because they’re not living a distinct life that puts them in situations where the real-time juxtaposition of life, faith, action and reason all come together in one big cluster-f&%*. And it’s in that moment that the humbly faithful feel like a hypocrite.

Yet it’s in that same moment that you know you’re living the right way. Even if you, or especially I, might not believe it.

Call me a hypocrite then. I’m going to now claim it anyway.

Are there times, and what are they, when you feel like a walking hypocrite?

Much love.

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  • Heidi

    yes yes yes yes yes yes yes! thank you for sharing this! this was so refreshing to hear! i can completely relate! i think any honest leader feels this at some point in their life/ministry. we set the standard to what God desires of us, but none of us live up to it all the time. thank you thank you thank you thank you. this post breathed life in me, knowing i’m not the only one!

  • Yep, God calls us to live life based on his terms. We are held to an impossible standard due to his holiness. We fail and feel miserable in the failing. However, because of Jesus, we can rejoice that he comes between us and God. Awesome! Following Jesus is not easy, but it is the way.

    • Larry – Love that… “It’s not easy but it’s the way.” Comfort in that truth!

  • Sam

    My pastor friends say they all have people in their churches who want them to pretend that everything is perfect with their lives, families and walks with God. That is called fantasyland. The rest of us think this all looks very fake.

    To me, a hypocrite is someone who outright lies about how they live. It’s the preacher or teacher who teaches that homosexuality is an abomination, says they are straight, but in reality has gay lovers. If you don’t fit this description, you’re not a hypocrite in my book.

    Some people get out there and do something. That describes you Andrew. Lots and lots of people sit on their butts in front of a computer and criticize. Ignore them. They’re behaving like children and playing children’s games. Don’t let them draw you into their games. You’ve got important things to do. These people are just a big distraction. If you really want to get back at them, ignore them and put all of your energy into what you believe God has called you to do. If you spend your time fussing with them, they’ve won.

    Consider this: from time to time post “Here’s What People are Saying About Me and the Marin Foundation”, with a “Pro’s” column and a “Con’s” column, with links under each. Your followers can read the stuff and respond to the people who wrote it. Let us defend you. You’ve got important stuff to do.

    Thank you, Andrew, for putting yourself on the line for a community that the church has mistreated rather than loved. Mistreating gay people looks a whole lot like religion, not like Jesus. But, you know, it’s difficult for even a true Jesus follower to love people whom pastors and churches call names (abominations, perverts, child molesters) and do not welcome into their churches or lives.

    That’s where you come in Andrew – Call Jesus’ followers to love homosexual people, regardless of what they think about what the Bible may or may not say on the topic. If they can’t love gays, how can they love aunt Carol -who is a glutton, uncle Herman – who cheats on his taxes, brother Bill – who is having an affair with a woman from work, nephew Johnny – who is living with his girlfriend, and pastor Bob – who has problems with porn and problems with his marriage???

    What do you think Jesus would write in the dust today when the church leaders drag the gay community before Him, say that these people have been caught red-handed, and what was He going to do about it? Jesus isn’t here to write in the dust. Maybe you’re someone who will do it in His place. What will your life write that will help the church end their condemnation of these people and back off? What will you write that will help a people who have forgotten how to love to remember?

    • Eugene

      “To me, a hypocrite is someone who outright lies about how they live.”

      Frankly, I disagree. In my opinion, lies by omission are more harmful and insidious. A pastor doesn’t have to say “Everything’s perfect in my life” in order to project the illusion of perfection. An “ex-gay” man doesn’t have to say, “I never fantasize about men” in order to project the illusion of heterosexuality. But they surely know how their words will be perceived – and you can’t even accuse them of lying.

      • Eugene – From a pastoral perspective, I think that both are terrible. Lying to put up a front vs. lying by omission do so much damage to everyone out there. I just wish so many of us could just ooze transparency – and not just being transparent about what we want to be transparent about. I had one ‘well known’ blogger friend of mine (who many look to as THE transparent person) say:

        “It’s easy to be transparent when you get to choose what to be transparent about.”

        Ouch. #Fail

    • Sam – Thank you so much for your words. They mean a lot. Recently it’s felt more like an internal struggle with myself and my unrealistic expectations vs. expectations that I have actually lived out – which can never match up, and thus, some type of Christian guilt placed upon myself by myself. My Dad always asks me, “Which Andrew am I talking to? The Andrew beating you up or the Andrew getting beat up?” Sad, but true. It’s something that I have struggled with for a long time, but am trying very intentionally to change.

      This post seemed to me as an outpouring of that step to move forward.

  • Br. Michael

    Can a pure zebra change it’s stripes? Can a pure born gay go straight? “If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck… It’s a duck.”

  • Melanie Johnson

    Andrew, this is one of the most transparent and vulnerable posts you’ve written in a long time. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Grace is a beautiful thing and it’s something I cling very tightly to.

    • Thanks Melanie. Time to just keep on trucking…

  • And this is why I’m so honored that you call me friend, sir. I am so thankful for your honesty and humility for without that what are we as children of God? In my weakness, it is God’s glory that shines through which is the contradiction of the gospel, isn’t it? The moment we proclaim that we have it all together and figured out, is the moment we declare that we are no longer in need of His grace and mercies. If in my continuous journey of God transforming me (note: not me striving to be transformed but allowing the Holy Spirit to do His thing, right??) means that I’m revealing to others my weaknesses, struggles, and questions then I’m all for it! Bring it on so that God may be glorified all the more! I’m especially a daily walking example of that right now with what’s going on in my personal life but God’s being glorified every day even more so than when my life seemed to be put together!

    Thanks always Andy for your willingness to listen to the Spirit’s urgings and please know that every time you feel your weakness declaring itself that God will use that to bring about His glory because you’re being an obedient and humble servant. I love you man and your heart. It moves me and challenges me all the time. May you be blessed and encouraged on THIS day, today, with His new mercies and loving kindness.

    • Love you Irene. Seriously. Thanks for being my homegirl. 🙂

  • Hey, Andrew! 🙂
    I’m from Brazil and been in touch with your posts and your thoughts. Your work is very important to me, because I study at a place with many gay people, and I wanna be a light to them and love them at the same time.
    I totally agreed when you said that pastors are struggling with shame and guilt and doubt like the rest of us. That is so true, because they’re human beings just like the rest of us! We can never forget that our pastors, parentes, relatives, friends are NOT perfect, so we can’t expect perfection from them. And neither from our ourselves.
    Don’t put on too much pressure on you, it’s gonna do you no good.

    Much love (from Brazil).

    • Manuela – Much love right back! Brazil, huh? So cool. Thanks for writing! It’s the self-imposed pressure that I struggle with the most. My whole life, until I started my organization, was based on success/fail and immediate gradification because all I did was revolve my life around playing baseball. For instance, you go up to bat; and if you get a hit your batting average immediately goes up. If you dont’ get a hit, you know your batting average immediately goes down.

      For the first 20 years of my life this is what I taught myself. The separation has been slow, but mini-break-through’s are becoming aparent. I just need to focus not on the ‘metric’ but on the ‘establishment’. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Eugene

    “Therefore because I cannot live up to my standard of life, by default, at a baseline level I am a walking hypocrite. ”

    No, you’re not a hypocrite, Andrew. Just read the Wikipedia article:

    From the article: “Hypocrisy is the act of pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, feelings, qualities, or standards that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie. Hypocrisy is not simply failing to practice those virtues that one preaches…
    “Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice…”

    As long as you actually try to live up to your standard of life, realize that you can’t and don’t hide this fact from other people, there is nothing hypocritical about it.

    On the other hand, your example of hypocrisy (“because of who they are they feel like they can’t keep it real all of the time”) is correct. It is hypocrisy, and it’s extremely damaging.

    • Thanks Eugene. Sometimes it REALLY helps to actually look at the definitions in order to give some persepctive. As I’ve learned…feelings can lie. The last thing I want to do is pretend anything to anyone. I try to always keep it real on here, even when certain people who have money and could help my organization keep telling me they won’t give unless I change how I write and respond.

      Well, if that’s the case, I tell them; then keep your money. Strange pressure from all around, including within myself.

  • Eugene

    “We’re setting up believers in Jesus to fail.”

    That’s a good point. But what should success look like? Apparently, you can’t be “without sin” – so it can’t be the definition of success.

    Should people feel as guilty as possible because of every sin they commit? But that sounds like misery, not success.

    Should people feel as good as possible regardless of the sins they commit? But that sounds like an excuse to keep sinning.

    Should people commit as few sins as they easily can? Naturally, it’s much easier for a straight pastor not to have sex with men than for a gay parishioner. And when the pastor is projecting the illusion of perfection, it looks downright insulting. But a sin is a sin, isn’t it?

    Either way, it’s only hypocritical when a pastor doesn’t tell the whole story. If he preaches that masturbation is a sin, he should also tell the parishioners how often he masturbates (or wants to masturbate) and how he is coping with this issue. If he preaches that greed is a sin, he must be willing to discuss his own finances (hopefully, there will be fewer pastors living in huge mansions). And if he preaches that gay people must be abstinent, he’d better be abstinent too – regardless of his sexual orientation.

    • I feel like success is a faithful journey focused on God. I know many Christians who count sins, and try to numerically sin less over the course of a life. True sentiment, but impossible to live up to because what then is considered an ‘acceptable number of sins’ in a day/hour/week/etc?

      The struggle for myself and many other believers is that because (I feel) we have a heart yearning to do as God asks, that well-intentioned heart plays tricks on us within a system of life that will never match up. It’s like a constant back-and-forth game that can never be won this side of heaven…yet if our goal is to bring heaven on earth, as Jesus says, then what does success look like with a world that heaven can never actually be established until Jesus comes back?

      You see the craziness to this whole situation?

      The more I live the more I am realizing that success is faithfulness to the Lord and faithfulness to live in relation to, and relationship with others around you. Beyond that, I’m not too sure because I can’t control someone else’s outcome. That is why I have recently been trying to understand the ‘outcome’ as secondary to the fidelity of the life.

  • ~steveT


    authenticity, my brother……love and authenticity. with those two things what we’re called to is pretty simple. remember…..most of those pharisees we love to bash (because we’re SO not like them 😉 really wanted to please to God. they just thought they had to pretend to look like it all the time. fact is….grace opens the door for us to be free to be who we really are.

    count on it……i will love you more, the MORE i know you…not the less i know you. sounds scary and risky i know, but…..we called to be real.



    • Steve – Preach that all day brother. I love it:

      Love and authenticity.

      Simple and powerful all at once.

  • pm

    How many times should a believer struggle with embarrassment, shame, nerves and guilt within the whole gamut of emotional turmoil? When we feel such every day, does that make us any less of a believer? Can we really quantify it? In Matthew 19:21 Jesus focused on a conditional ‘if-then’ when He gave instructions to take direct action in removing those things that were holding a man back from following the LORD. In that incident, the things regarding riches were holding and entangling his discipleship. How reasonable is it to expect that we might become perfect in word and action as waves of feelings undercut and overwhelm us? Our daily attitude is to refine our focus so we can work through our own issues that keep blocking our forward progress. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus compared our goal of perfection to becoming like His Heavenly Father. Who, then, can achieve this? Obviously, this goal is not possible when we consider our own capabilities. It is only with faithful patience that we persevere and run the race of as a life-long process.

    James 1:4 ==>> “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

    • pm – WOW! WOW! You just gave me a huge revelation:

      “Our daily attitude is to refine our focus so we can work through our own issues that keep blocking our forward progress.”

      How you pieced that together through Scripture is truly insightful. Thank you so much for sharing this. Seriously. Thank you.

  • Henriet

    Just yesterday evening I was reading the autobiography of David Pytches, one time missionary in Chile and initiator of the New Wine movement in the UK and worldwide. He got a lot of criticism. He once reacted with a quotation that he adapted from someone else:
    “I prefer the way I am doing it badly to your way of not doing it at all.”
    It’s so liberating to admit you cannot do it entirely right, ever.
    God bless you, Henriet

    • Henriet – 🙂 I love that! I’ll be remembering those words for sure!

  • Seth

    Andrew, you’ve hit the nail on the head once again, and I’m glad to read and be inspired by your humble words. But I would never call you a hypocrite just because you don’t always demonstrate what you aspire to. Like steveT said, authentic is by far better.

    I have always struggled with dissonance, the gap–or the clash–between what I want to think, say or do and what I actually think, say or do. It’s there all the time, and sometimes it’s really big. Most of the time I keep it to myself, and manage not to inflict it on other folks. But when he taught about sin, Jesus did not make much difference between thinking, saying, and doing. Hence, we have continual confession, restoration, resolution and relapse in our lives before the Lord. It’s a source of growth for us, but it’s easy to become bogged down by the fear of screwing up again.

    I’ve always thought, for better or worse, that grace is the antidote to this–it’s the everyday ability to recognize and close the gap between the way things are and they way the ought to be, and it enables us to keep going. Sometime we offer it to others, sometimes we appropriate it for ourselves. But I know of no other way to resolve the dissonance in my own life. And even though I strive daily for congruence between what I think, say and do, I would never learn a lesson or grow in any way if didn’t have access to grace to close that gap.

    Nevertheless, we hate that dissonance in ourselves; we hate it more when others point it out in us. And we are often ready to nail others for it, besides, and vigorously so. We can spot it (or smell it!) from a mile away. It’s easy to call somebody a hypocrite, because we know the pattern so well in ourselves. The challenge, is to spot instead those opportunities where we can experience grace and to offer it to others. It’s an exercise in humility, for sure, and one where we need lots of practice.



    • Seth – “Dissonance”… I really think that concept hits what I wrote better than the word ‘hypocrite’. Thanks for the clarity on that.

  • Debbie Thurman

    I am so thankful for Romans 7 and 8!

  • Ron Graves

    Funny how I have heard over many years about the Cross and what it means for us as believers…yet, the truth of my sin (and sinfulness) having been dealt with once and for all still struggles to sink in. Papa lovingly reminds me (often moment by moment) that He loves us because its who He is, not what He gets in return.He asked to chew on this until it sinks in, as long as it takes. Whether I measure up or not isn’t an issue, I already don’t EXCEPT what He did for us in the Cross and resurrection. Perhaps when we tarry long enough over this important truth that He always wants us to inhabit and know (heart not head) we can freely experience and explore the wonders of His love….blows me away (and He knew what He was getting into the day we responded to Him). Andy, I pray for you everyday just because…this process loooks great on you and the rest of us too.
    a fellow hipocrite in process,

    • Brother Ron – “I pray for you everyday just because…”. My heart has melted. I can only wish to be a better friend to you, like you are to me. Thank you so much for something I can never repay you.