"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17 (ESV).
Have you ever heard this objection? “I would go to church, but the place is full of hypocrites!” Or, “I believe in God, but I won’t go to church because everything there is so judgmental.” I am not ever surprised when I encounter judgmental or hypocritical people at church—because Jesus instituted the church precisely for sinners. Ironically, one cannot really judge judgmental people without being judgmental themselves.
The most offensive thing about Christianity is the Cross (Gal 5:10-11). The second most offensive thing about Christianity is the Christian. The offense of the Christian, however, is predicated upon the first offense. The Cross—an instrument of death—also bids the sinner to come and die so that the new man can rise again into the fulness of new life. The cross offends because it calls us to die to ourselves. It offends because it confounds our human sense of justice. When someone does wrong, we want to see that person punished in kind. The cross offends people because it exemplifies God’s principle of mercy, rather than eye-for-an-eye justice.
But for someone who takes offense at the Cross, and subsequently takes offense at the fact that the church is full of sinners, a mirror might be required. When we hold ourselves up to the mirror—the standard of human conduct that God expects for us in Scripture—we find that we have more muck and mire on our own faces than we ever imagined. As Paul writes, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Rom 3:23-25).
The problem with the church isn’t that there are too many sinners, no more than the problem of a hospital is that it is full of too many sick people. Like sick people in a hospital, who are seeking medical treatment, the sinner in the church is seeking the gracious provision and mercy of the Great Physician who restores us in His image.
Yes, Jesus died for hypocrites. But here’s the solution to hypocrisy. Once you admit that you are sinner, you aren’t a hypocrite anymore. Once you admit that there is nothing righteous within you, and all your righteousness comes because of the merits of Christ, you no longer stand accused. In truth, then, those who confess their sins are not hypocrites at all. Still, there may be hypocrites in church. It is likely the sinner who thinks he is better than someone else, the very one who complains about too many hypocrites being in church. Just remember—Jesus died for that hypocrite, too.