Christians are often accused of hypocrisy and intolerance. As sinners, we routinely fail to practice what we preach. However, hypocrisy is not synonymous with moral failure, Merriam-Webster notwithstanding. Hypocrisy is claiming to hold beliefs that you don’t actually hold. Samuel Johnson was right:
“Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others, those attempts which he neglects himself.” No 14. Rambler. 145
Those who preach love and tolerance (e.g., the LGBT community) often have little tolerance for those who do not share their ideals. This is pure hypocrisy; unwillingness to accept views that differ from your own is the definition of intolerance. Ironically, those who preach tolerance the loudest are often the most intolerant—and therefore hypocritical—people around.
Scripture teaches that homosexuality is sinful, but we are to nevertheless love our neighbor regardless of their sexual orientation (Matthew 22:39). What Scripture commands could be described as loving intolerance. Loving our neighbor means not sitting idly by and watching as they perish in their sin. Love requires us to sometimes warn our neighbors about the dangers of doing that which makes them happy. Love compels us to call all sinners to repentance—no exceptions. Turning a blind eye to sin would be much easier, but that would be the opposite of love. We do not, however, hate those who continue in their sin. We grieve over their self-imposed ruin and pray for their repentance.
Both LGBT advocates and Christians strive to live by their convictions.Those who belong to the LGBT community are often strong advocates for what they consider to be a noble cause. While I, as a Christian, disagree with the nobility of their cause, I do respect the integrity of those who are so dedicated to living by and advocating for their convictions. The LGBT community, however, does not typically extend that same respect to Christians. Unless you believe as they do, you’re a bigot.
Scripture never singles out specific groups and identifies some as sinful and others as inherently righteous. All are equally sinful in God’s eyes; all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). This is no different when it comes to human sexuality. Scripture teaches that everyone is born with impure sexual desires, whether they are of the homosexual or heterosexual variety.
The LGBT community teaches the opposite. Nobody is sinful, and all of our sexual impulses are inherently good. If there is such a thing as sin, it is the failure to be “true to yourself” and to suppress those desires, or to say there is something wrong with them.
This difference grows out of two very different anthropologies. The LGBT anthropology regards humanity as inherently good, which is why it rejects Christianity with its nagging insistence that we are sinners in need of salvation. Any talk of a Savior is hate-speech, and the worst thing you could do is to tell someone what they are doing is wrong. If salvation could be obtained by doing whatever makes us happy, self-righteousness would be a legitimate possibility for humanity. Those who take this view cannot respect the integrity of those who recognize sinful impulses for what they are and struggle against them because for them, the only evil is to believe in the reality of sin.
Christians are not so naive. Scripture is honest about the reality of our own corruption. It teaches that there is something wrong with the world, and that something is us. We daily fail to practice what we preach, but we are forbidden from taking the easy way out and becoming hedonists. We are to continue striving for that righteousness which we are incapable of obtaining, all the while trusting in Christ who is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30).
Rather than condemn as hypocritical those who repent of their failure to practice what they preach, we ought to extol them as heroes and join them in their repentance. This is what made David a man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14). David was as wicked of a sinner as they come. He had been guilty of murdering a man in cold blood so that he could have his wife (2 Samuel 11:14ff.). But when David came to realize his sin, he was genuinely remorseful and repented of it (2 Samuel 12).
This obviously does not mean we take advantage of the grace of God and use it as an excuse to do whatever we please (Romans 6). To extol the penitent is to recognize that we are incapable of producing our own righteousness and to reassure sinners of the good news that in Christ, God does not hold our trespasses against us (2 Corinthians 5:19). We recognize that all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but that in Christ, God freely offers to us the gift of justification (Romans 3:24).
The Church is a hospital for those who are sick with sin. There is nothing more comforting than the knowledge that in Holy Baptism, Christ has washed us clean in His own blood and regards us as glorious, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (Revelation 7:14; Ephesians 5:25-27).
Christians are not self-righteous. Christians are those who know that they are wretched, daily struggle against the desires of their own sinful flesh (Romans 7:15ff.), and trust in Christ to deliver them from their sin (Romans 7:24–25). They make St. Paul’s confession their own: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost (1 Timothy 1:15). How can you be hypocritical for sinning when you acknowledge your own wretchedness?
Christ has come into the world to save real sinners. Repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15).