Recently, someone called out “fake Christians” on my Twitter feed. Being labeled as fake is a common attack from non-Christians, especially those who have been hurt by the Church. I know from personal experience. I once felt wounded by the Church also, and I used the “fake Christian” dig to call out what I viewed as hypocrisy.
If we really want to get down to brass tacks, by definition, a “fake Christian” is not a Christian at all. You either believe Jesus is the son of God or you don’t. You cannot fake the condition of your heart.
As followers of Christ, there is one thing we know for certain — we are imperfect and we always will be, that is why we need Jesus. Acknowledging that and accepting the grace we’ve freely received because of His life, death and resurrection, is the very foundation of Christianity.
It is tempting to assign the “fake Christian” label to someone who claims to be a Christ-follower, yet their lifestyle doesn’t reflect it. In Matthew 7:17-20, Jesus says, “by their fruit you will recognize them.” Thankfully, he is merciful when our fruit is less-than-sweet. Through Christ, we have been set apart and made righteous in His sight. We are called to pursue holiness and it is there that we can enjoy a life of peace and closeness to the Lord. Yet the reality is, in our humanness, we are going to miss the mark most of the time. Does that make us fake, or simply a work in progress?
How do we differentiate a fake Christian from an authentic Christian? It comes down to this: a “real Christian” will have a deep desire to please God and bear good fruit, even if it takes a lifetime. Ideally, we would never have to use any kind of qualifiers when using the word “Christian,” be it fake, real or otherwise.
If someone is questioning your walk with God, it might be an opportunity for self-reflection: “What kind of fruit am I producing?” Or, when it comes in the form a judgmental attack, we can rest in the truth that our faith is intact and only God knows the sincerity of our hearts toward Christ.
When the attacks come, we have three options:
- We can get our feelings hurt, act like the world, and yell or mean tweet back.
- We can use the opportunity to point out that when a Christian makes a mistake, they do not lose their right standing in Christ, nor do they become “fake.” Jesus stood in the gap for us and died in place of the punishment for our sins. The difference between someone who is a Christian and someone who is not comes down to whether the person believes and receives the truth of the Gospel.
- We can acknowledge that sinful lifestyles, hypocrisy, false teachings and “bad fruit” have caused hurt inside and outside of the Church. Yes, there are people who call themselves Christians but are not living for Him. It does not diminish the truth of the Gospel.
Option one is not a viable option. We must assume that they do not fully understand what it means to walk with Christ. Options two and three are personal preferences. We need to remember that when we are under an attack of any kind, we are still ambassadors for Christ, and we must act in accordance with His will.
Although it’s unlikely you will change the mind of such provocateur, you may show them enough grace to break down one or several barriers that might help someone else. Instead of getting your feelings hurt or your ire raised, be thankful for the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone who brings the subject up to you.