The Old Testament has a lot of rules–rules that no one in this modern age could actually follow. For example, the Old Testament commands us not to eat pork (Lev. 11) or wear certain clothing (Lev. 19). If Christians are so committed to following God’s Word, then why don’t we follow these rules? There are other rules that Christians follow in the Old Testament, such as not practicing homosexuality, observing the Sabbath, tithing, or even not getting tattoos. It seems as if we pick and choose the rules that we want to follow, making those looking at our religious practice from the outside see us as hypocrites. After all, how can we say that homosexuality is a sin when we don’t sacrifice cows on a regular basis? This is a valid argument presented by many who are confused about Christianity. There is a Biblical explanation as to why Christians do what they do, but if we as believers don’t hold to this explanation, then we are just as hypocritical as others say we are.
In short, the reason that Christians (should) follow certain rules and not others is that there are some prohibitions reiterated under what we Biblically call the “New Covenant.” In the Old Testament, the people of God were under a covenant with God which consisted of a lot of the odd rules listed in the book of Leviticus. However, when Jesus Christ came to Earth to die and rise again, He abolished this Old Covenant and created a new one. The New Covenant is one of freedom and forgiveness rather than condemnation and bondage. Basically, Christ “freed” us from the rules laid down for the Old Testament people of God. There are some things, however, that Jesus reiterated as important in the second half of the Bible, the New Testament. For example, the New Testament prohibits homosexual activity, encourages us to tithe, and commands that believers act in a way that honors Jesus (Rom. 1:24-32; Luke 18:9-14; Heb. 7:1-6; 1 Pet. 1:15). Thus, Christians follow these new commandments not out of fear or duty, but out of love for Christ and a desire to serve Him.
As Christians, though, we must be careful not to become the hypocrites we are often labeled as. We must be careful not to pick and choose the rules that we feel like following. We must recognize the Bible as mostly literal, all while carefully studying its meaning so that we know how to live. For example, many Christians believe that getting a tattoo is a sin, based on Leviticus 19:28. However, looking at the context of this verse, it is referring to idol worship and sorcery and is an Old Covenant rule, listed alongside rules about how men should trim their beards and cut their hair (v.27). Does the New Testament have anything to say about tattoos? Not specifically. However, it does say that we should treat our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Does getting a tattoo help you share the Gospel or emanate Christ as His temple? What is your motivation behind tattooing your body? Therefore, rather than a rule to follow, Christ sets an example which we can interpret and follow. Even though this seems pretty subjective, the believer who follows Biblical patterns and truths and interprets the Bible as it is will make Biblically informed and Christ-honoring decisions. This may look different from one believer to another, because each of us have different interpretations and personal convictions. As long as we are each seeking to follow God to the best of our abilities, we will honor Christ despite our differences.
So, are Christians hypocrites? Yes, at times. But understanding the way that Christ has set us free from the law of the Old Covenant makes a huge difference in how we understand and apply the Bible. The Gospel and the New Covenant go hand-in-hand; to pick and choose from the old law defeats the purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection. As Christians, in order to follow the Gospel and be consistent in our testimony to those around us, we need to be diligent to follow all of Christ’s commands listed under the New Covenant rather than picking and choosing rules throughout the Bible.
“For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. . . This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.” -Hebrews 7:18-19, 22