When Texas Rangers outfielder—and recovering addict—Josh Hamilton fell off the wagon earlier this year, popular sports website Deadspin played it up with snark-infested commentary. While Hamilton's night of drinking was nothing compared to the lewd, lascivious behavior of many athletes, he was ridiculed as a hypocrite. Hamilton is vocal about his faith in Christ and the role it has played in his recovery from heroin and alcohol abuse.

It turns out that Hamilton had told his wife, his team, and Major League Baseball about his sobriety failure the day after it occurred. And when photos from his debauched evening went public many months later, he held a press conference, apologizing again to his team, wife, and kids.

"Unfortunately, it happened," he said. "It just reinforces to me that if I'm out there getting ready for a season and taking my focus off the most important thing in my recovery, which is my relationship with Christ, it's amazing how those things creep back in."

Perhaps the media and popular culture are confused about what Christians believe regarding sin and forgiveness because we are, too. Churches with liberal and conservative doctrine are frequently tempted to reduce Christianity to nothing more than morality. One side may be more interested in social change and the other side may be more interested in personal change. But far too often, churches preach and teach the importance of our own moral actions, thereby belittling the importance of what Christ has done for us.

The result is that every time a scandal breaks involving a prominent Christian laid low—South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Ted Haggard, Mel Gibson—we're treated to an endless news cycle about hypocrisy. But hypocrisy isn't ...

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Throwing Inkwells
Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a contributor to GetReligion.org, an editor at Ricochet.com, and a frequent writer for Christianity Today and a number of other outlets. A committed Lutheran, her column ran from 2009 to 2011.
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