Some people use the following excuse for not being part of a church community: Church is full of hypocrites.
I prefer to think of it this way: Church is full of imperfect humans.
Churchgoers are sometimes viewed as self-righteous, when the opposite is likely truer. Many of us attend church because we understand that we are flawed, imperfect humans, and we seek inspiration for personal and spiritual growth. We recognize that often our behavior is not very Christ-like. What would Jesus do? Not what I just did.
In Christian churches, we proclaim a desire to follow the examples of Jesus. As with our approach to which of the Ten Commandments we choose to obey, some of us, perhaps most of us, choose which of Jesus’s examples to emulate. We readily feed the poor and show compassion for the homeless, while snubbing a church member we don’t like. We judge others, gossip about things that could be left unsaid, tear others down instead of lifting them up. Love our neighbor as our self? Most of us miss the mark on any given day.
Sometimes our clergy do not set a good example for us, and we judge them to be hypocrites. We hold them to a higher standard because of their ordination as disciples of Christ. Yet, they too are imperfect humans, as are we all. Sometimes we deem that a church leader could benefit from a large dose of humility. Look in the mirror.
Looking in the mirror is what the season of Lent means to me—self-reflection. It is easy to give up a favorite food, activity, some tangible thing. It is more challenging to give up certain attitudes that are not very Christ-like. It is more challenging to be totally honest with myself about missing the mark set for us by Jesus. Therein lies my Lenten focus—giving up flawed attitudes, and taking up a greater awareness of the examples set by Jesus, more mindful of the true meaning of being a Christian.
I consider myself a Christian by a profession of faith. However, my thoughts, attitudes, actions and reactions often miss the mark of the true Christian way of being. It is more honest to say that I am learning to be a Christian, learning to walk in love, learning to practice the examples of Jesus, which is an ongoing and life-long study. When I look in the mirror, I can see that sometimes I look like a hypocrite.
All churchgoers are not exemplary Christians. As the saying goes, “Sitting in a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.” Not the best analogy, but it makes a point.
Yes, there are hypocrites in church, and many of us are there for spiritual growth, trying to be better.