“Pt.6- Hypocrisy of the Church: What Has Love Got to Do with It?” Sermon Notes for February 13, 2022

Updated: Mar 4


1 Corinthians 13: 1-13

13 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.


4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.


8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.


Notes:

  • We continue in our sermon series that addresses lingering questions people may have that serve as a stumbling block to faith. We’ve covered how we can believe both in science and in God; how there can be evil and suffering in the world when there is a good, compassionate, and loving God who we say is in control; and how the wounds left in the wake of evil, pain and suffering can be healed; and if the Bible, our key reference to address any of these questions, can be trusted as true. Last week, we tackled the question of whether we can take Jesus at his word that he is The Way and not a way to God. ( For more conversation on any of this, contact us through our website at www.firstumcoakpark.org.)

  • Today, we start by noting a few troubling trends. Worship attendance has been on the decline well before the pandemic. A recent survey showed that average worship attendance had dropped from 137 in 2000 to 65 in 2020. In 2021, Gallop found that church membership had dropped below 50% nationally for the first time in their surveying history. Among the younger generation, Millennials, only 36% identify with a church.[1] The question is why these trends?

  • The unchurched, especially younger people, do not think highly of Christianity and the church, which are seen as boring, judgmental, anti-gay and more about what we are opposed to rather than what we are for, old-fashioned, and too political. Christians, church, and sadly, even God—as a result of the example set forth by Christians and the church, in today’s context ultimately are not perceived as being relevant. And why is this?

  • The church is not being the church—the authentic representation of Jesus in the world- the visible body of Christ for the world. That brings us to today’s topic, hypocrisy in the church. A research study done by the Barna Group asked non-Christian people why they rejected Christianity. 85% said that the church was just too hypocritical.[2] The way Christians live is proof to them that what we say we believe is not true.

  • Gandhi, one of India’s greatest prophets, said, “I love your Christ, but I dislike your Christianity.” When asked once how it would be possible to bring India to Christ, Gandhi replied: First, I would suggest that all of you Christians live more like Jesus Christ. Second, I would suggest that you practice your Christianity without adulterating it. Third, I would suggest that you put more emphasis on love, for love is the soul and center of Christianity….”[3]

  • Hence, Gandhi answers the question posed in the subtitle of today’s sermon, what’s love got to do with it? Everything. Critics and skeptics of Christianity are quick to point out the atrocities the Christian church has carried out over the centuries—for example the Crusades, The Inquisition, the witch trials both in Europe and in colonial days of this country, the abhorrent institution of slavery (even the Methodist Church’s history involved schism over the matter of whether pastors could own slaves). In our current context, we observe many who claim to be Christian supporting or turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the violence, abuse, and hateful behavior promoted by prominent political figures.

  • How do we respond to such challenges? The first step is to admit wrongdoing. Face facts for what they are. Unfortunately, too often when confronted with behavior that is antithetical to what we say are our Christian principles and values, we become defensive, start denying allegations, and blame others.

Then consider two reasons for what appears to be hypocrisy in the church:

  1. The people who profess to be Christian actually aren’t. Jesus warns about false teachers (Matthew 7:15-20). Church throughout history has had many people who attend church, but the church—that is Christ, is not really in them. There are the cultural Christians—the ones who say and do the “right thing” sometimes, but they are still hypocrites because they do not really have a relationship with Jesus. They are going through the motions. This is why Jesus says that on the day of judgment, there will be those who will say to him “Lord, Lord” but he will put them to the side and say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22-23). Mark Clark sites a poll that was taken several years ago that showed that the lifestyle activities of those professing to be Christian were statistically the same as those of people claiming not to be Christians around the following topics: gambling, visiting pornographic websites, taking something that didn’t belong to them, saying mean things behind someone’s back (gossiping), consulting a medium or psychic (following the zodiac), having a physical fight or abusing someone, using illegal or nonprescription drugs, saying something to someone that’s not true (lying), getting back at someone and seeking revenge, and consuming enough alcohol to be considered legally drunk.[4] But according to the Bible, if there is no outward change in behavior, loyalties, and passions, then one might question whether these people are had actually accepted Jesus as Lord (which is what makes someone a Christian). Herein, lies the problem, these people misrepresent Christianity to the world, particularly when they behave in ways that are antithetical, that is, incompatible, with the gospel. If Jesus is not changing your behavior and inspiring greater love for God and others, then you need to revisit your relationship and take steps to begin or strengthen it.

  2. The second reason is that the church is full of sinners. Christians are not perfect, simply forgiven. Jesus lived a perfect life. While we may try, we aren’t perfect. That’s why we live depending on God’s grace.

  • People are at different points along the continuum to becoming more like Christ. We call this process sanctification- when God’s Spirit continues to work with us, smoothing out the rough edges, and helping us to reveal more evidence of God’s influence in our lives. We think of this evidence as the fruit of the Spirit “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self -control.”

  • Our scripture for today taken from 1 Corinthians 13 speaks to how we are to get a long as a church and how we avoid being hypocrites. This chapter follows Chapter 12 in which the Apostle Paul discusses gifts of the Spirit offered to followers of Jesus. Thus, Chapter 13 is not just a commentary on love, though often used in the context of romantic relationships and weddings; it can also be read as further clarification as to how the members of the church, the body of Christ, should interact with each other with love as the primary characteristic and underpinning value. If we take this to heart, the watching world will see Jesus authentically and we are less likely to be labeled “hypocrites.”

  • We are each given gifts of the Spirit, but if gifts are offered with a sense of haughtiness, pride, contempt or moral rebuke, their effect is diminished.

  • No matter how wonderful the gift, accomplishment or deed, if love is not the motivation, then the activity becomes selfish, even pointless.

  • Love waits patiently and is merciful. It is not jealous, boastful, arrogant, doesn’t become irritable or keep track of wrongs; it doesn’t take pleasure in unrighteousness or someone else’s pain.

  • Love is willing to forgive. (This doesn’t mean we accept being abused or mistreated, but it does mean trying to see the good in others and extend grace where physical, mental, and spiritual harm is not a factor.)

  • Love builds up and doesn’t tear down.

  • Acknowledge that we are all ‘children’ in faith (3:1), growing towards maturity (13:10). We look forward to the day when we will no longer walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7) but by sight when we see Jesus face to face (13:12).

  • At the heart of the Christian life are faith, hope and love. For Christians, God’s love for us should inspire our love for others and fuel our faith and hope in greater things to come.

  • To those who recognize some hypocrisy in themselves and want to do better: 1) make sure your relationship with God is solid. Pray and ask God to help you do better. 2) Recognize we are all cracked, broken people. It seems like as soon as God’s righteousness is poured into us, it leaks out through the cracks. Some days, it can seem hopeless. Like Paul said, the things I want to do, I don’t and the things I don’t want to do, I do. (Romans 7: 15-20). Yet there is good news! This faith of ours is not about what we can do for God without God, but rather, about what God, in God’s mercy, does for us. Don’t focus on the good that leaks out and feels lost, focus on the light that is within you because you know Jesus, and that is also leaking out.

2 Corinthians 4:7 New International Version (NIV)

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

  • To those who feel the church has let them down and is filled with hypocrites: Don’t focus on the followers. They will at some point disappoint. Simply focus on Jesus, as you learn about him through the Biblical witness. In Him alone will you find someone truly worthy of admiration, trust, and imitation.

  • To All: Live and most importantly, love like Jesus. An old adage says, “You may be the only Bible some people ever read.”

  • Mark Batterson says in the 40 Day Prayer Challenge p. 169- Day 30)—"If people like what they read in your life, they might just want to pick up the Book that inspired your translation!” [5]

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*Sermon Series based in part on work of Mark Clark in his book, The Problem of God (Zondervan, 2017) and today’s message also influenced by Discipleship Ministries/ The United Methodist Church (Greater Gifts: Love, 2/3/19)

[1] https://redletterchallenge.com/2022/02/10/. The #1 Reason the Church is Declining and What We Can Do About It.” Zach Zehnder [2] Mark Clark, The Problem of God, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2017), p.181. [3] https://bigccatholics.blogspot.com/2015/07/answering-gandhis-rebuke-of-christians_5.html [4] Clark, p.185. [5] Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2012), p.169, Day 30.

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