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Josh Duggar and Christian Hypocrites

The recent revelation that Josh Duggar had sexually molested minor family members and friends when he, too, was a minor has brought to the fore the uncomfortable fact that Christians are sinners.  When this news broke I had no idea even who Josh Duggar is. But I quickly learned that he is a Christian on a television show, because social media exploded with comments by Christians and non-Christians, many of which celebrated the exposure of his sin and triumphantly proclaimed yet another Christian to be a hypocrite.

I was particularly struck by one on Facebook rejoicing that someone who is “holier than thou” had been exposed as flawed and, at least earlier in life, a criminal. That has been rolling in my brain since I saw it as I think the comment, and indeed the entire event, reflects an essential misunderstanding of Christianity and the Kingdom of God, not only by the secular world but some Christians as well. For even more perplexing, I saw Christians as well as non-Christians wielding the charge of hypocrisy.

When Christians such as Josh Duggar are exposed as having sinned they are commonly criticized as hypocrites by the secular world. By this worldly measure of hypocrisy Christians are supposed to be without sin, so when a Christian sins the entire message of Christianity must be flawed. The problem though is not that a Christian has sinned. All Christians are sinners. Jesus surrounded himself with sinners. Christians were sinners before they accepted Christ and remain sinners after they become Christians. That Christians who are also sinners can charge Duggar with hypocrisy because he sinned simply shows how deeply the confusion of the world has penetrated the Church.

The problem here is that the message of Christ has become confused with that of all other religions. Faiths other than Christianity focus on what believers must do to prove they are worthy of salvation. The believer must achieve righteousness by following a proscribed course of conduct. Salvation is theirs to earn or lose.  The secular world simply looks at Christianity and Christians through that same prism and believes that Christians who fail to follow the teachings of Christ are false Christians; that is, hypocrites. If Christians are to blame here, it is not that we sin, but that we have failed to make the world understand that the message of Christ is about life in the Kingdom of God in spite of our sins and that we have done, and can do, nothing to earn that redemption.

The message of Christianity is not what Christians do, but rather what Christ does in and through flawed, sinful Christians. Jesus Christ came to this world to free for life in the Kingdom of God anyone who chooses that life. E. Stanley Jones in The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person characterizes the Kingdom as “God’s total plan for all life, now, [not] a reward thrown in at the end.” Living in the Kingdom of God is returning to living life the way God intended from the beginning for life to be lived in union with him.[i] Sin is the barrier that prevents us from living in the Kingdom. But we begin life in the Kingdom when we accept the gift of Christ’s redemption from sin while we remain sinners.  We may not always live as Christ intends, but when we do we live in his Kingdom. But when we do not, the world is confused.

Christians have been freed from the consequences of sin as to life in God’s Kingdom. They are neither free of sin nor free to ignore the impact of their sin on others. Jesus established that Kingdom life is possible even for sinners because through Christ sinners no longer bear the consequences of sin and may live in the Kingdom. For those who accept the redemption from sin available through Jesus, Christ begins the process of replacing the sinful behavior in their lives with righteous conduct. Salvation is not a prize at the end of a life of good, sinless behavior. It is a gift to a sinner that begins the transformation of a life from sinful to righteous behavior. Moreover, that transformation is not the action of the Christian, but the action of Christ. The transformation occurs as the Christian permits Christ to work in his or her life, but is never total. The Christian still sins.

The confusion for non-Christians is that they think Christians must change their behavior and earn redemption, but when a Christian claims redemption yet sins that must mean the Christian is a hypocrite because the individual has engaged in behavior that is unacceptable to God. The non-Christians see a sinner that is no different than them and, therefore, find a hypocrite. And they are right except for one critical distinction…the Christian has been redeemed from the eternal consequences of the sin by the grace of Jesus Christ, not his or her conduct.

The confusion of the secular world about the role of sin in the life of a Christian, however, is the fault of Christians. Let’s face it; we do a lousy job talking about sin because we are just uncomfortable about it. By allowing sin to fade from their discourse, Christians have allowed the perception that it is not in their lives even though they know it is still there. Sadly, some Christians seem to believe that the redemption of Christ actually makes them sinless, or at least entitles them to criticize the sin in their neighbor, even when their neighbor is Josh Duggar. These are small in number, but do great harm to the message of Christ because the fact that they are not sinless, and therefore hypocritical, frequently is manifest. In addition, Christians also often fail to distinguish clearly that although we rejoice in our redemption from sin, that does not mean that we are not accountable to those against whom we have sinned, including society at large.

It is almost impossible to proclaim the Gospel without talking about sin. Christ brings the Kingdom of God to sinners, so if we do not talk about the role of sin the message of Christ is emptied of meaning. Instead we have replaced it with nothing more than airy, do-good feel-good morality into which holes are easily poked and the air released. We need to make it clear that repentance and redemption are critical to salvation, but redemption does not mean that we do not sin or own the earthly consequences of our sin. The message we need to deliver about sin is not how sinful our neighbor is, but what Christ is doing in our lives in the face of our sin.

There are only two types of people in the world: redeemed sinners and unredeemed sinners. The only Christians that are hypocrites are those who claim to be entitled to judge the sins of their neighbors, such as Josh Duggar, as they too continue to sin. There is hypocrisy around Duggar’s story, but it rests with the sinners who casts stones at him for his sin. Christians should neither defend nor criticize the sin of another Christian, such as Josh Duggar, without explaining the redemption from that sin. That Duggar was a molester is terrible. If he reconciled his conduct with the law and his victims, that is appropriate and should be accepted. But that he is a redeemed sinner remains a basis for celebration. He is not a “holier than thou” hypocrite because he sinned. Rather his life is an example of the work of Christ and should be explained as such.

The world needs to understand that Christians are sinners in the process of transformation, not sinless. The world needs to know that Christians own the responsibility to correct the consequences of their sin and if that means addressing the consequences at law, then we own that also. The world needs to understand that we rejoice in our redemption from sin, because we remain sinners. The world needs to understand that in those moments when we allow Christ to transform us, we experience life in the Kingdom of God and rejoice because we see the fullness of life in Christ. And the world needs to understand that Christ holds that promise of redemption and transformation out to everyone.  But the world will not understand unless we Christians clearly explain what it means to be redeemed by Christ. If we remain silent in the face of charges of hypocrisy, or even worse join in those charges, we miss the real opportunity to share the Gospel.

[i] I do not intend this as a discourse on the Kingdom of God. If you would like to know more of my thoughts on the Kingdom, see Kingdom of Light, Kingdom of God at .

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Welcome, I'm Tom

I'm Tom Trezise a retired lawyer and corporate executive with over twenty years of experience as a Methodist lay preacher. Raised in Appalachia, I proudly call myself a hillbilly at heart. I'm the executive director of The Everyday Kingdom, a non-profit devoted to fostering a community that helps people find and experience the peace, purpose, and joy available from living every day in Christ’s kingdom.

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