Stryper have drawn their share of criticism over the decades, but it's usually from the non-Christian faction of metal fans. After singer Michael Sweet and bassist Perry Richardson enjoyed a couple cigars and shared the photo on social media, it's the Christians who expressed their extreme dissatisfaction with the act.

In the photo, which was shared by Sweet on Instagram, he reveled in a "long overdue day off" and stated that he hadn't "smoked a good cigar in probably a year or so at least." Richardson, who joined the Christian metal group in 2017, was pictured as well and, curiously, it was the cigars that were in the crosshairs of angry fans instead of the bassist's sleeve tattoo. This potentially defies Biblical scripture given your interpretation of the Leviticus 19:28 verse, which reads, "You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord."

Comments quickly came pouring in as followers of Sweet unloaded on what they viewed as a sinful act, leading some to question his faith altogether as they asked if he was really a Christian upon learning of his infrequent cigar habit.

Read what some of the fans said below and keep reading to see what Sweet's defenders had to add in addition to the singer's formal apology after the war of words was ignited in the original photo.

What the Detractors Are Saying

Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper

Others were quick to stand behind Sweet, condemning those who were quick to judge the Stryper frontman.

Fans Defend Stryper

Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper
Instagram: MichaelSweetStryper

All of this chatter prompted a formal apology from Sweet (seen below), who expressed that he didn't even realize a photo such as this would yield so much criticism. "To be honest, I don't know how I've been able to continue doing what I do with the weight I/we have to carry sometimes," he wrote, "I realize that it's strictly by the strength and grace of the Lord above."

Sweet also urged Pharisees (more on that here) to "take a good look in the mirror and start there. You will find a lot of dirt to clean and you won’t have any time to clean anyone else’s."

Recently I posted a picture of @perryrichardson777 and I sharing a moment together smoking a cigar. I didn’t even think of the potential backlash that it could cause and although I’m not surprised by some of the judgmental comments (I’ve been seeing/reading those for years), I am a little let down by those who forget that we’re all flawed, we’re all sinners.

I’ve never claimed to be perfect and never will be. I try to love life to the fullest and enjoy moments like these. I simply thought I would share a nice moment with all of you, not realizing that it would open the flood gates. To be honest, I don’t know how I’ve been able to continue doing what I do with the weight I/we have to carry sometimes. I realize that’s it’s strictly by the strength and grace of The Lord above.
I put my faith in God and He sustains me. He knows my heart and my motives and that’s good enough for me.
Moral of the story? Trust God, not man. Men will always let you down. I’ll keep my eyes on The Lord and NOT on the negative comments that I have to read (because I personally manage my own pages to personally stay in touch with all of you) day in and day out.

For all the religious Pharisees out there, take a good look in the mirror and start there. You will find a lot of dirt to clean and you won’t have any time to clean anyone else’s;-) To all the people (certainly the majority) with pure, loving, faithful hearts - May God continue to bless you and all that you do.
I’ll keep on trying to be as real and as honest as I possibly can be, leaving the judgement to God above. Carry on..... Love & Respect,

M

Sweet also felt the heat from fans two years ago when Stryper announced that their new album would be titled God Damn Evil. The play on words, which, on the surface, appears to break one of the Ten Commandments of the Bible to not take the Lord's name in vain, was intended as an intruction for God to damn (or condemn) evil doings.

Meanwhile, the band has already written their next album, which is expected to be released some time this year.

See Stryper in 13 Bands Other People Make You Feel Bad About Loving