The BIG IDEA
Jesus shows us our hypocrisy, forgives us, and gives us power to be more genuine.
Many people want nothing to do with Jesus because they see his followers as judgmental and hypocritical.
Humbly apologize when there’s hypocrisy in our lives, and ask God for help to be more genuine and love those around us well.
Why THIS MATTERS
Many people reject Christianity because Christians they’ve known are hypocrites. Christ-followers have a powerful opportunity to humbly acknowledge this and apologize for the ways they have contributed to this individually and as a group.
I WANT MY STUDENTS TO:
- KNOW: We’re all hypocrites (people who say one thing and do something else), but we can still follow Jesus because he accepts us in spite of our shortcomings and gives us power to change.
- EXPERIENCE: Humility in the knowledge that they are hypocrites just like those around them.
- DO: Follow Jesus in spite of the hypocrisy in them and around them.
The idea box is a place where you can find some creative ideas for leading this study. You might find videos, activities, or great illustrations that really bring the main point home. The ideas come from small group leaders like you, so if you have an idea that isn’t in there, click below to share it with the community!
*WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Raul is a friend of yours. He says he would never become a Christian because he knows too many people who say they’re Christians but who are hypocrites*. How would you respond to Raul?
Hypocrites: Those who tell people to do things they themselves don’t do (Urban Dictionary); those who act like they live by a certain standard when they don’t.
People are not hypocrites just because they have certain standards (like those that go with following Jesus) and invite others to the same. The problem arises when people act like they don’t have faults but actually do, failing to live in a humble way that admits they’re as messed up as the next person.
WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT THIS?
*1. Read John 8:1–5. Describe what is happening.
Jesus is teaching when some religious leaders bring a woman before him that’s been caught in adultery (being with someone sexually other than her husband). They say the religious law calls for them to kill her by throwing stones at her, and they want to know Jesus’ opinion.
*2. Read John 8:6‒9. What does verse 6 say about the motives of the religious leaders?
Allow the group to discuss. It shows that they don’t care as much about right and wrong or the woman as they do about getting at Jesus.
*3. What is Jesus’ point in verse 7?
Allow the group to discuss. He’s saying that if they really want to be true to the law and stone the woman, the one who has never sinned should lead the way. This means that no one gets to lead the way because all have sinned. Jesus sees their hypocrisy and exposes it. Just as many of us and our friends don’t like hypocrisy, neither does Jesus!
*4. What do Jesus’ words and the response of the religious leaders show about the hearts of these people (verses 7‒9)?
They show the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. They want to come down hard on the woman, but they don’t see that they are also sinful. Once they see their hypocrisy, they leave because they realize they don’t have a basis for judging the woman.
5. Read John 8:10–11. How does Jesus handle things with the woman once the religious leaders leave?
He assures her that he doesn’t condemn her, and he calls her to leave her life of sin. Jesus’ example shows that there’s a place for challenging, encouraging, and speaking into the lives of those who are living in sin. When handled with kindness and care, this is an act of love that adds value to people’s lives. Jesus didn’t condemn the woman but encouraged her to make different choices. We have that same opportunity as we step into people’s lives with the love of Christ.
HOW DO WE APPLY THIS TO OUR LIVES?
*6. What do you think people mean when they say they don’t want to follow Jesus because so many Christians are hypocrites?
Allow the group to discuss.
7. Based on what you’ve read in this story, how would you respond to someone who says he or she doesn’t want to follow Jesus because so many Christians are hypocrites?
Allow the group to discuss. Here are some tips for when this comes up in a conversation:
- Agree that Christian hypocrisy is a problem.
- Admit the times when your own hypocrisy has been a problem for the person you’re talking to.
- Explain that Christians do not claim to be perfect, but that we’re sinful people that have received the forgiveness that Jesus offers us all.
- Give your own reasons for why Christian hypocrisy doesn’t stop you from following Jesus.
- Be intentional about loving people around you well. When they are around true, loving Christians, their concerns about hypocrites may fade away.
- Explain that Jesus is different than everyone else: he lived a perfect life and has no hypocrisy. Yet he accepts us and invites us to live above our shortcomings. He’s someone who’s truly worth following.
*8. Based on this story, how does Jesus challenge the hypocrisy in your own life?
Allow the group to discuss. Jesus helps us see we all have a problem with sin. It’s not just other people. He challenges us to take a humble approach toward God and others.
9. What is good about following a God like Jesus who doesn’t condemn you and who also doesn’t leave you stuck in your sin (see verse 11)?
It’s good to follow a God like Jesus who doesn’t condemn us because we can be free from the weight of never measuring up and know the most important person in the universe actually accepts you. It’s also good to follow a God like Jesus who doesn’t leave us stuck in our sin because it gives us hope that change in our lives is possible.
10. Read 2 Corinthians 5:21. How does Jesus’ perfect life and death for our sins pave the way for him to accept us and call us to leave our sins behind us?
Allow the group to discuss. Jesus lived the perfect life that we should have lived. He died the death we deserved to die. When we trust in him, he forgives us so that God can accept us. He also gives us power through his Spirit to live the same kind of right life he lived as we trust in him.
*11. What’s an area in your life where you need Jesus’ acceptance and the power of his Spirit to rise above the hypocrisy you struggle with?
Allow the group to discuss. Try to lead with an example from your life that gives a picture of an area you struggle with and how God’s Spirit is helping you change.
Our review cards are an excellent way to review your past lessons with your students before each study. Not every lesson has one yet but if we have them, you can find them on the PRINT page. Check them out and use them each week to help your students grab hold of the truths in these studies.
What ideas do you have that could improve this study? Are there creative things you do to bring this topic home to your students? Please share with the community clicking the FEEDBACK button or leaving a comment below.