Roy and I spent most of our lives in Indiana but lived for the last decade in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). The two cultures are about as opposite as a jalapeño and an egg white, a rhino and a wooly worm, a ballet dancer and a cowboy. I love them both for different reasons.
The interesting thing is, both the midwest and PNW had similar complaints about the Church. Christians they knew were either self-righteous holy rollers or Sunday-morning hypocrites by Monday. I bet you’ve heard similar criticism.
What’s a Believer to Do?
We’ve now moved back across the country—this time to the very buckle of the Bible Belt—North Carolina. We live in Billy Graham’s neighborhood and Franklin Graham’s hometown. Probably half of our church works at Samaritan’s Purse or Operation Christmas Child. We go to a fast food restaurant that plays Christian music. It’s awesome—and terrifying.
All around me is a culture of Christianity, but is there more love, more sacrifice, more of Jesus in flesh? Yes…and no.
Shadow Sides Defined
Every strength has its shadow side. If I’m an introvert, gaining strength and energy from being alone, that fuels my writing and gives me the ability to do something I love even though I endure some chronic illnesses. However, if I hide away from folks, refusing to become part of a community of believers—I’m allowing a good thing to cast a shadow.
What if those complaints about Christians are shadow sides of good intentions?
Some Christians place a high value on personal holiness, righteousness (being “right” before God), and living like Jesus. They would be the ones wearing the WWJD bracelets and necklaces even after the fad is over. They study the Word of God, hold it close, and know it on a deep level.
Because they hold themselves to a high standard, they may sometimes hold others to the same guidelines and might be seen as “self-righteous” or “holier than thou” by those who have a hard time coloring inside the lines. A holy-roller may shout verses like:
“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:14-16
Some Christians place a higher value on social justice, serving those in need. These folks are committed to the doing part of Christianity: going to church, serving in soup kitchens, visiting the sick, helping the elderly. If there’s a project to be done, they’re doing it, but if there’s a Bible study going on, they’re too busy to attend. They’d rather have a beer with their buddies after work than stay for the potluck after Sunday worship. They may paraphrase a shorter Bible verse like this one:
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
What About You?
There may be a little Hypocrite and Holy Roller in all of us, but do you lean toward one or the other? Which do you get more frustrated with—the self-righteous or the Sunday saints? Figure that out, and you’re probably the opposite. If you cast stones at Sunday saints, beware of being a Holy Roller. If you can’t stand those self-righteous prudes, beware of letting your witness lapse during the week.
Pleasing to the Lord
As with most things in this walk with Jesus, I’ve found that balance is the answer. Does our God demand personal holiness? Yes. 1 Peter 1:14-16 is in the Bible for a reason, but it must be tempered with:
“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:17
Does our God demand social justice, ministering to those in need? Yes. But it must come from a personal relationship with Jesus.
“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” Romans 10:2-3
Think about the Hall of Fame Christians in your life, the people who live out their faith humbly everyday. My guess is they’ve learned the discipline of balance. They spend time in personal and community study of God’s Word, deepening their relationship with Jesus and with His people. And they take time to serve both the Body of Christ and others in need. They are “others-centered” in their lives and thinking.
Only when we can balance both aspects of this walk with Christ can the Church of Jesus Christ shatter the stereotype of Hypocrites and Holy Rollers we’ve established. May the change begin with me, Jesus…
- Do Hypocrites and Holy Rollers fill the nation’s churches? Why this common accusation?
- What if the complaints about the Church are simply shadow sides of good intentions?
- When Christians balance these 2 things, Hypocrites and Holy Rollers will diminish.
- Are there other factors that add to the stereotypical Christians in America today, and how can we remedy the situation?