Despite the image that many Christian leaders and so-called leaders project, believing isn’t easy. “I believe; help me in my unbelief!” These are the words recorded in the Book of Mark that were cried out by a father who asked Jesus to cast a demon out of his son. The man had asked for this help half-heartedly and when Jesus confronted him about it, he cried out. This is the same cry that still echoes in the hearts of many in the years since they were spoken.
You see, there are plenty of stumbling blocks that make living a life of faith difficult: temptation, doubt, the presence of evil, confusion about sexuality and more. Christians can and should confront these issues and wrestle with them throughout their lives and maybe find answers or maybe not, but can still live a life rooted in faith despite struggling with roadblocks to belief.
However, one roadblock that shouldn’t exist, yet is a prominent one that leads people toward unbelief and atheism, is hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy and the road to unbelief
Nobody is perfect and anyone who is rational does not expect anybody to be perfect. But, hypocrisy does not consider those who are not perfect, rather it concerns those who project a facade of perfection.
Most of those who fall in this camp would never describe themselves as perfect, but their actions state they believe otherwise. You’ve probably come across someone like this at some point in your life. Someone who says to read the Bible but doesn’t live according to the teachings of Jesus, someone who prioritizes money and comfort over the Kingdom of Heaven, someone who abuses and cherry-picks commands like “honor your mother and father” or “submit to authority” but then lies and cheats and steals and hates and is oppressive and talks behind others’ backs and does not forgive anyone and does not love their neighbors.
Sadly, this kind of behavior has a more drastic effect than its instigators intend. According to a study published by Religion, Brain and Behavior Journal, those who are raised by parents whose faith is insincere like this tend to become atheists early on in life. Rather than guiding a child toward faith, parents who tell their children to read the Bible but live an insincere life tend to pave the path toward unbelief for future generations.
What should Christians do about hypocrisy?
It makes sense that this kind of hypocrisy contributes to unbelief. How could this faith system be true when its own self-proclaimed followers don’t observe any of its most sacred tenets?
Christians need to own their shortcomings and be transparent with their church, neighbors and, especially, their families. Children need to see parents who genuinely wrestle with faith in every aspect of life, rather than parents who say trust God or read the Bible, but do not live as if this was important to them.
And, finally, children need to see parents and leaders who live by the greatest commandments to love the Lord and love your neighbor as yourself. As Jesus says, the law hangs on these two commands. Living these out can not only improve your personal walk with Jesus but have a healthy impact on those around you.