A godly man on Facebook recently posted a comment on what he called “Gotcha” Christians. “Gotcha” Christians are Christians who are quick to judge another who has fallen into a sin. The term comes from the game “Gotcha” where, as the tagline states, one “catches their friends before they catch the person.” Gotcha Christians do the same. They are quick to condemn another, perhaps because they fear that someone else may condemn them. These Christians can at times be callous. Yet, is this truly a display of genuine Christianity? For those who are regular readers of our resources, you know that we stand for genuine Christianity. Genuine Christianity is that which displays the fruit of the Spirit…those characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Jesus stood against individuals that held onto a “Gotcha” religion. Jesus slammed the Pharisees on several occasions for this behavior. Jesus, not the tame person that many purport Him to be, said,
“The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
13 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.
15 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!
16 “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ 17 Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. 19 How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. 21 And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. 22 And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.
23 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. 24 Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!
25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. 30 Then you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would never have joined them in killing the prophets'” (Matthew 23:11-29).
Wow! That was straight to the point, huh? From Jesus’ teaching, we can find at least five characteristics of “Gotcha” Christians:
Jesus accused the Pharisees of “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.” In other words, He was saying that in their attempts to filter out sin from their lives, they actually engaged in egregious sins…sins against humanity. The Pharisees were quick to judge another for one’s sin, but they did not evaluate their own lives.
Much to the same degree, “Gotcha” Christians will see all the bad things in someone else while being just as guilty of those things themselves. For instance, I heard about an instance where a woman who had been divorced four times tried to give marital advice to a newlywed. I am sure the woman had some great points to offer, but she acted as if she was an expert on marriage. The point is that you will ultimately be responsible for your own actions. You will not be responsible for what I do just as I will not be responsible for what you do. Each person is responsible for his/her own actions. So, why should a person concern oneself over the flaws of another when the observer should be concerned for their own personal sins? That is not to say that one should not seek to offer help to another struggling in a particular sin. However, such an occasion calls for humility and love instead of hostility and loathing.
Jesus showed in verse 13 that the Pharisees that He was confronting were not going to enter the kingdom of God. They were so focused on particular sins instead of the solution to those sins. For instance, suppose you have a sore throat, the sniffles, running a fever, and are coughing and sneezing. Would you simply consider treating each particular symptom or would you treat the problem? Would you consider blowing your nose a solution to the problem? Of course not. For the runny nose is not the problem, the problem is that you have the flu. Therefore, you will have to fight the sickness to cure the symptoms. Likewise, Christians can focus on individual symptoms like: extramarital sexual relations, gossiping, and the like. Or, Christians can focus on the solution: salvation through Christ Jesus. Please understand that I am not saying that we should not acknowledge and diagnose the characteristics of sin. It is important for people to know what the Bible teaches about sin. However, if the symptoms overtake the solution, the disease will never get better. “Gotcha” Christians will normally hammer down on one sin without proclaiming the solution found in Jesus Christ.
Dr. Ergun Caner has become a controversial figure apparently over the details of his early involvement in Islam. However, Dr. Caner has some great things to say, nonetheless. In a video, Dr. Caner described the difference between “holiness” and “legalism.” Caner said, “Those who promote holiness want you to be like Jesus. Those who promote legalism want you to be like themselves” (Ergun Caner, Video, Liberty University). That is so true. Jesus seems to promote the same idea. Jesus showed that the Pharisees focused on small issues while demoting large areas of concern such as justice, mercy, and faith. Many churches have become “Gotcha” institutions. In these churches, a particular culture is promoted over Christ. For some, a particular style of music is held sacred over another. But according to Psalm 150, the believer should praise God with all kinds of instruments. Hence, Caner’s point remains, “Those who promote holiness want you to be like Jesus where those who promote legalism want you to be like themselves.”
Have you ever meet a person that was attractive outwardly, but appeared ugly after you got to know them? Outward appearance only takes one so far. If there is no personality and genuineness, the physical appearance of the person wanes. Jesus showed that many of the Pharisees tried to look righteous outwardly but held no integrity. It seems like many people seek drive the nicest cars, live in the biggest houses, and only attend the fanciest churches. But, is that what God is really looking for? No! Instead God is looking for inner purity, integrity, and a merciful heart. “Gotcha” Christians will go so far as to divide a church over carpet and cleaning supplies, but wouldn’t give two cents over whether the church stands on the authority of God’s word. They will say “Gotcha” to one who does not fit their own perspective of what the church is supposed to be. But, the core question should be, “What does God say the church should be?” After all, it is His institution. As far as outward beauty goes, there is not a suit or dress expensive enough, not a tan dark enough, not a body fit enough, and not enough makeup in the world to cover up the ugliness of bad inner character and moral depravity.
Have you ever met a person that after talking with them would have you think that they held the world record in the bench press, while also holding the fastest track record, while also winning the Nobel Peace Prize, while also having the world’s highest IQ, and also claimed to invent electricity? Well, maybe that’s a stretch. Yet, for some people, there is no limit to their ego. “Gotcha” Christians are the same. They will seek praise for their spiritual disciplines, praise for their humanitarian efforts, and accolades for their position in society, while not considering what the Sovereign God may think of them. In another passage, Jesus said, ”
“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. 5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. 7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him” (Matthew 6:1-8)!
In other words, a person’s faith is not genuine if the whole intent of one’s actions is just to be seen by others. “Gotcha” Christians do things just to be seen by others. At the heart of it all, “Gotcha” Christians seek to be seen as good by others to cover up the pain and distress within. But all the show in the world will never replace an authentic relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
“Gotcha” Christians have their focus all wrong. They focus on judgment, symptoms of sin, legalism, outward appearance, and personal praise instead of the more important issues of repentance, salvation, holiness, inner character, and the person of God. In the end, it must be asked if “Gotcha” Christians are truly Christians at all. Could they only be Christians in name only? Or, could it be that maybe “Gotcha” Christians have received Christ, but have not been discipled properly? Only God knows for sure. We must truly seek Christ and His character. In the end, there are four words that will protect one from becoming a “Gotcha” Christian…BE A GENUINE CHRISTIAN!!!
Seeking to be genuine and not a “Gotcha” Christian,
All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation, 3rd ed. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007.