British novelist Evelyn Waugh was known as an earthy man, even after he found Christ. A lady once asked him: "Mr. Waugh, how can you behave as you do and still call yourself a Christian?" His answer: "Madam, I may be as bad as you say. But believe me, were it not for my religion, I would scarcely be a human being."
Well, we've all heard it before: "Christians are hypocrites!" Sometimes, it appears so. None of us gets it right all the time; hence the need for Christ's sacrifice at the cross.
Regrettably, a Christian's random bad behavior becomes a stumbling block for others. That brief wrongdoing may be the only thing we are remembered for by those who witnessed it. To them, we are hypocrites.
So, how do we prevent those hypocritical instances?
It starts with a daily desire to be more Christ-like, followed by prayer and other Christian disciplines.
Though Hollywood does little to identify the true Christian identity, some moviemakers throughout the decades have incorporated the Christian ethic into their stories. As a cinema buff, I can summon up examples that have both admonished and encouraged me concerning being a true Christian, not a hypocritical one. Here are a few:
"Stars In My Crown" from 1950 has Joel McCrea playing an 1800s minister dealing with the problems of his church members. Though a fictional story, McCrea's symbolic character exemplifies a man who understands that our daily walk can eventually affect the lives of others.
In 2003, Joseph Fiennes gave a compelling performance as Martin Luther, the 16th-century Christian reformer, in the well-mounted period drama "Luther." The movie exhibits a willing man devoted to Jesus despite the price he pays for that devotion.
The inspiring "Faith Like Potatoes" from 2009 tells the true story of Angus Buchan, a South African farmer who suffers a series of seemingly insurmountable losses. Angus discovers that the key to healing and learning to accept others lies in his unwavering belief in Jesus Christ. He comes to live that faith, though it's not always easy.
"Where Was God?", an 89-minute documentary about the devastation caused by tornadoes that ripped through Moore, Okla., and Joplin, Mo., in 2013, features interviews from survivors. Their wounds have caused them to draw nearer to God by reaching out to others in pain.
There are many such films with positive portraits of people who take their faith seriously. Perhaps the most revealing is one I've recently seen. "Facing Darkness"* is a soon-to-be-released faith-based documentary that explores the motivation of people willing to give up their comforts in order to do the will of God.
In July 2014, Americans Dr. Kent Brantly and nurse Nancy Writebol, who both battled the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, West Africa, were diagnosed with the dreaded disease themselves. Both were medical missionaries who willingly came to a foreign land in order to help their fellow man. They knew the risk and, indeed, came as close to death as you can and still survive. What prompted them to leave the security of America to venture into a war-torn nation fraught with violence and disease? They're Christians. True Christians.
You may recall, Dr. Brantly was airlifted back to the U.S. in a special plane, with a constructed compartment meant to house the patient without endangering others. In a last effort to save his life, he had been given an experimental medication, as of then only tested on mice. By the time he arrived at the hospital in Atlanta, Dr. Brantly was able to stand and walk out of the ambulance on his own.
He survived. He got well. Then what did he do? Facing Darkness reveals that he went back to West Africa in an effort to show God's love for his colleagues and former patients. Whatever this man or Ms. Writebal's faults may be, I'd seriously hesitate ever calling them hypocrites.
Every day there are illustrations around us of men and women who strive to center our Savior in their lives. They seldom get media recognition as they seek the acknowledgement of God not man. But is there anyone, other than Jesus, who has ascended to the heights of infallibility this side of heaven?
Like you, I've known "hypocrites" who did me wrong. I can't throw stones, however, for there are some from my past who could say the same of me. Their summation of my character, however, is not a balanced one. A person's character is not necessarily formed by one negative deed nor, for that matter, by one positive act. A life is made up of moments that reveal character -- moments that allow for development of that character. Integrity can blossom over a lifetime. As we draw closer to Jesus, there should be fewer people who conclude that we are hypocrites. Thank You, Jesus.
Phil Boatwright, in addition to writing for Baptist Press, is a regular contributor to "The World and Everything in It," a weekly podcast program from WORLD News Group. *Facing Darkness premiers in select U.S. movie theaters for one night through Fathom Events on March 30.