Hogs and Christians
The story is told about a Christian who visited a farmer to talk to him about Christ and attending services. “I will never come to church there,” said the farmer, “because it is filled with hypocrites. I know a person who goes there who has just as many faults as I do. If that’s what Christianity is all about, then I have just as much hope of heaven as you.”
Months passed before the Christian went to see the farmer again. Instead of enraging him with his need to become a Christian, the visitor just simply asked to buy a hog. The farmer obliged and showed him his finest. “I’ll take that one,” said the Christian as he pointed to the smallest runt of the litter. “You don’t want that one, it’s the worst one I have.”
“No,” said the Christian, “I want to take this one around town to show people what kind of hogs you are raising.”
“That’s not fair,” the farmer shouted, “I have some nice hogs for sale and that runt doesn’t represent the kind of farm I’m running!”
The Christian simply replied, “If it’s fair for the church, it’s fair for your farm.”
What a remarkable way of viewing the church. Sure, there will be times when Christians get caught up in worldliness and should be dealt with accordingly (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:5), but their behavior does not represent everyone else at that congregation. It is not a righteous conclusion to assume everyone else at the congregation is disingenuous. The Lord told a group of Christians, “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). Yet, had the predominant members at Sardi's been used as a measurement for every other saint there, no one at that congregation would have been sincere.
On the other hand, we need to be mindful of how our actions affect the entire church. People’s opinion of Christ and the gospel will be influenced by what they see in us. This is seen in Paul’s rebuke of hypocritical Jews, “For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Romans 2:24). Our behavior has an effect on people. If they see genuine joy, contentment, and godliness, we might persuade them to follow the Lord. But if they see ungodly compromise, especially when we forsake the assembly or engage in “secret” sins, we become a stumbling block for the gospel. It is as Peter tells Christian women married to unbelieving husbands, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1). Hence, let us “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10). “Always let others see you behaving properly, even though they may still accuse you of doing wrong. Then on the day of judgment, they will honor God by telling the good things they saw you do” (1 Peter 2:12, CEV).