After I wrote my last post, a couple of articles on the same topic appeared on my Facebook newsfeed. They are personal stories of people who experienced the church defending the abusers while accusing the victim. Stories like this happen often and it is why I think it’s serious when Christians believe lies. I’ll share the links at the end of this post.
I want you to know that I am not Christian-bashing. I am a Christian. I know many others who have a great love for God, who walk with Him faithfully, and who have a deep understanding of the Bible. However, there are people within the church who are predators. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are false teachers. And there are many people who defend and support them. This is a problem.
There are memes that state such things as “Not going to church because of hypocrites is like not going to the gym because of fat people.” I think memes like that reveal a misunderstanding of what “hypocrite” actually means. A hypocrite is not merely an imperfect person who has weaknesses and failures. Dictionary.com defines “hypocrite” as:
Merriam-Webster defines hypocrite as
a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings
In other words, a hypocrite is one who deliberately pretends to be something he is not. He wears a mask to hide his true self. He is a liar, a deceiver, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Narcissists fit this description. Every church has imperfect people in it but if hypocrites are in the church, the church has a real problem.
I also think there is a tendency to claim that people who leave the church are doing so because they hate the truth or they are disgruntled, critical, etc. I’m sure it is true that some people leave church for those reasons, but I think it’s arrogant to assume that those are the only reasons that people leave the church. I know many people with a deep love of God who have chosen to leave the church because the truth is NOT being taught there and/or because wolves are tearing apart the flock. It is naive to think that every church, every pastor, is preaching the truth. The Bible itself warns against false prophets and teachers and wolves.
Rather than dismiss people who leave as hating truth or being disgruntled, the church ought to pay attention to why they are leaving and to correct wrongs within the church. The fault might not be in the people leaving, but in the church itself. In the links I shared, one of the woman almost walked away from God because of what she suffered at the hands of the church. This is serious. We ought not to ignore, deny, or cover up problems, but honestly deal with them. In I Corinthians 5:9-13, Paul says that we aren’t to worry about judging those in the world, but we are to judge those who are within the community, those who claim they are “brothers.” He instructs that the evil doer be expelled:
In my earlier letter I wrote you not to associate with people who engage in sexual immorality. I didn’t mean the sexually immoral people outside your community, or the greedy, or the thieves or the idol-worshippers — for then you would have to leave the world altogether! No, what I wrote you was not to associate with anyone who is supposedly a brother but who also engages in sexual immorality, is greedy, worships idols, is abusive, gets drunk or steals. With such a person you shouldn’t even eat! For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Isn’t it those who are part of the community that you should be judging? God will judge those who are outside. Just expel the evildoer from among yourselves.
The church can’t remove the evildoers if it refuses to recognize that they exist.
Here is one final article. It describes exactly why predators target churches. It is very interesting and worth reading.