Tag Archives: fake

Why do Christians sometimes seem fake to the outside world?

Not only do Christians seem fake to the outside world, they can also seem fake to other Christians, too.

The reason for fakery in the lives of those who claim to follow Jesus often comes down to expectations of perfection within church communities and a lack of authentic humility among churchgoing people. Courage and humility can begin to correct the pandemic of fakeness in the church.

Christians often feel a cultural pressure to appear as holy and perfect as possible to one another and to the world. The trouble is that we are neither holy nor perfect. This can lead to a fake witness. We are strongly motivated by two impulses to try to keep up this front: fear and pride. For example, I fear what others may think of me if I behave authentically, or show a little of the everyday-still-in-need-of-a-Savior-self to others. I’m afraid that somehow I might be judged by others if I don’t act like I think a “good” Christian should. Yet, oddly, I’m proud, because acting this way usually results in compliments and admiration for me because of my good behavior.

What am I to do?

Jesus calls his followers to tell others about his work in the world. He is our redeemer and the fullest expression of a life faithfully lived. Personally, I am far from the fully faithful person Christ is calling me to become; however, as his redemption is being worked out in my life, I can point to him and what he is doing rather than trying to fake my own holiness. The tools available to bear this witness are two deeply Christian virtues: courage and humility.

It takes great courage to be truly humble. True humility leads, almost automatically, to authenticity, and the ability to be authentic will bear a great witness to the One who invites us to become more like him.

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Why do some church people seem so “phony?”

One answer is fear. Every church is comprised of ordinary human beings, but we often refuse to acknowledge our similarities to each other. We feel as though we ought to rise above our problems—especially temptations.

Yet so often we don’t. And so we regularly fake it for fear of what people will think. We fear that others might pull away from us if they knew the worst about us. This, of course, leads to hypocrisy.

While Jesus hates hypocrisy, he loves us. And so he told us: “Don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly … where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get.”[1] He also said, “When you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do.”[2] Jesus was warning us about religious people who valued how they looked more than they valued their relationship to God and to each other.

Can we get past the fear that isolates us and turns us into hypocrites? Yes, but it starts with dangerous honesty.

One of the remarkable things about the Bible is its honesty about its “heroes.” Noah got so drunk he passed out. Abraham was willing to let another man take his wife (twice!) until God intervened. Moses’ anger turned into murder. David had an affair with a married woman and then orchestrated her husband’s death in battle. Yet Hebrews 11 points to these individuals as heroes of the faith. They were ordinary people with big flaws and genuine faith.

The apostle Paul wrote openly about his struggles. “‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,’” he wrote, “and I am the worst of them all.”[3] In another letter he admitted, “I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.”[4] This caused him to exclaim, “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.”[5]

Our faith should be public, but it shouldn’t look “religious.” We are called to be followers of Jesus, even though we won’t follow Him perfectly. And church, of all places, should be a safe environment where we can admit our imperfections, our struggles, our addictions, and our tendency to fail. In other words, it’s a place where we hypocrites can be honest—even about our hypocrisy.

This question Why do church people seem so fake? is rooted in a stereotype. Surely many church attenders are fake. But most of us realize we are on a spiritual journey that started when we turned to Jesus in faith. Our part is to admit our own hypocrisy, ask God to change us, and let our own example of honesty become part of the solution, not a perpetuation of the problem.

[1] Matthew 6:5

[2] Matthew 6:16

[3] 1 Timothy 1:15

[4] Romans 7:15

[5] Romans 7:24–25

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