You don't have to look at the church long to see that Christians are not perfect. At all. In fact, one of the best-kept secrets of Christians is that we are actually not that good at following Jesus.
The truth is we didn't get "good enough" to come Jesus - we came to Jesus with our mess - without being good enough - and he is in the process of doing an amazing work inside of us.
My friend, Pastor Rob Ketterling says "Christians are not perfect, they are perfecting. They are simply on a journey of allowing grace to change them for the better." (tweet this)
Don't get me wrong, Christians have literally seen an amazing change in our heart, motivations, and the things that matter most to us, the very moment we put our trust in Jesus. But we will never be perfect in this life; we've simply met the One who is perfect.
This echoes a truth of renowned scholar C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity: Becoming a Christian doesn't make you better than anyone else. It simply take you further down the road than you were yourself.
There is more going on than what meets the eye though. When someone puts their trust in Christ, not only do they feel a physical difference (often lighter, a feeling of the weight of their sins, and the weight of the world lifted. It feels amazing) Their families and friends often seen an immediate difference, but Scripture tells us more is going on than we can see with our human perspective - we are literally brought from death to life when we trust in Christ. (Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13) We become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God begins a good work in a person when they become a Christian, and God will continue and ultimately finish that work fully in eternity. (Philippians 1:6)
That said, it can be disheartening to see a Christian who is so far from the picture of Christ. Many of us have experienced Christians who are jerks, unloving, unforgiving, demeaning and rude.
There is never a good excuse for someone who calls themselves a Christian to act like this. The kindness of God in our life, and the Word of God call us to so much more.
I want to take a moment to plead with you: don't be THAT Christian.
Don't allow the astonishing, mind-boggling, cosmos-shattering grace of God into your life and do nothing.
Don't spend your life yelling at the world, yelling at the Church, speaking holy truth without holy love, being a pain, terror and a nightmare to everyone you come into contact with.
If you call yourself a Christian, God calls you to more.
1 John 3:14 says, "We know we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death." This is pretty clear isn't it? To be a Christian but not love and care for others calls into question whether you are a Christian at all.
Here are 8 important ways you can avoid being THAT Christian that gives Christianity a bad name:
1. Don't be an unloving Christian (instead love like your life depends on it)
1 Corinthians 16:14 tells us "Do everything in love."
This command is clear. There is no part of the Christian life we are called to live without love.
So many Christians believe that if we just speak louder to culture... if we all stand with a unified voice against the evils of our day... we will change the world.
But 1 Corinthians 13 tells us plainly that to speak louder without love is just an annoying noise. We don't need to speak truth louder. We need to love louder.
Of course, there is a time to stand up against the evils and injustices of our day, but never without love.
1 Corinthians 13 explains what love looks like from God's perspective:
- Not angry
- Rejoices in truth
Without God's truth, we have nothing. But without God's love we have nothing either.
God calls us to share his truth, always with attitudes of love, gentleness and respect. (Ephesians 4:15; 1 Peter 3:15) Love is what gives us influence in our culture, for the sake of God's truth.
The very reason we came to God in the first place was because of his kindness to us (Romans 2:4). Our kindness and love allows others to see the forgiveness of God as well.
2. Don't be a demeaning Christian (instead show honor)
The Bible tells us over and over to honor other people:
- "Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other." (Romans 12:10)
- "Honor everyone, love your Christian brother and sisters. Fear God and honor the emperor." (1 Peter 2:17)
It shouldn't be lost on us that God called the early church to honor the leader of the known world who was slaughtering Christians. If we are called to honor even wicked leaders, we are certainly called to honor everyone we come into contact with.
Don't live your life demeaning other people. If you have been doing this, repent and stop making excuses.
You can honor people even if you disagree with them. How are you doing at honoring other people, even people who you disagree with?
If you don't show honor to everyone, you are not representing the Honorable God the way you should.
3. Don't be a harsh Christian (grow in graciousness and gentleness)
We may think the world is going the wrong way. We may think we have the answers. But we must guard from being harsh with truth.
The result of God's Spirit in our lives brings gentleness, kindness, joy and love. (Galatians 5:22-23) This is not a natural response. We need God to increase these good attitudes in our lives.
It can be easy to think that leaders who are the most charismatic, outgoing, passionate, intense, and even harsh are the godliest, but the Bible tells us that "wisdom from heaven" is actually gentle, merciful and peaceable. (James 3:17)
This means you know someone is representing God well when they are gentle, merciful and peaceable.
Harshness is a strong sign of spiritual immaturity.
4. Don't be an unforgiving Christian (forgive freely as God forgave you)
If someone has offended you, or hurt you, it is so important to strive daily to let it go.
"Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (Colossians 3:13)
"Don't sin by letting anger control you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil." (Ephesians 4:26)
If anyone had an excuse to live angry and offended it was Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie had spent time in a Nazi concentration camp, along with her family, for hiding Jews in their home during the Holocaust. Her sister Betsie had died in the camp, shortly before Corrie was released at the end of the war.
Just 3 years later, Corrie was back in Germany, speaking in Munich in 1947, when one of her former prison guards happened to be sitting in the service listening to her speak on God's forgiveness.
He approached her after the service seeking to be forgiven himself; asking for her forgiveness.
“I knew forgiveness not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’ For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.” (excerpt from The Hiding Place)
5. Don't be a self-righteous Christian (strive for humble expressions of faith)
St. Augustine said, "Since pride was the root cause of the fall, therefore, humility must be the first Christian discipline."
The Bible calls us to this:
- "Be completely humble and gentle." (Ephesians 4:12)
- "In humility, value others above yourselves." (Philippians 2:3)
- "With humility comes wisdom." (Proverbs 11:12)
- "The lowly in spirit gain honor." (Proverbs 29:23)
- "Who is wise in understanding among you? Let him show it by their good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom." (James 3:13)
- "Learn from me, I am gentle and humble in heart." (Matthew 11:29-30)
Be humble about who you are before God. Don't be self-righteous about your good works. Don't talk to people about how good you are. Point to Jesus. He along is worth boasting in.
Self-righteous Christians turn people away from the gospel, and cause others to feel they can never be good enough to come to God. Be honest about your failings and imperfections, and talk about how Christ is our only hope.
6. Don't be a passive aggressive Christian (be authentic and truly sweet)
Periodically I run across a Christian who is super sweet, but every so often will blow their top. This is called "passive aggressive" and can be especially hard on people when they are so used to that person being kind all of time.
I am not saying Christians can never make mistakes, but that we should guard against fake niceness, and ask for God's help to be truly kind and sweet from the depths of our heart.
"Don't just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Love each other with genuine affection." (Romans 12:9-10)
Do your best to not wear a fake, nice smile, but walk in true joy from the never-ending depths of all God has done for you.
And work on being honest and up-front with people in a gentle way, so that you don't eventually blow up for holding all your true feelings in.
7. Don't be a nit-picky Christian (show grace in your interactions with others)
Pastor Greg Laurie has said, "The happiest Christians are evangelistic ones. The unhappiest are the nit-picky kind" (tweet this)
Romans 14:1 in the message paraphrase says, "Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with - even when it seems they are strong on opinions, but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently."
Truly the old quote resonates with this, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
What our world needs is more conversations "seasoned with grace", not more nit-pickiness.
"Let your conversation be always full of grace." (Colossians 4:6)
8. Don't be a debbie-downer Christian (let God's joy and hope overflow in your life)
We've all met Christians who are super concerned about everything negative in the world.
These Christians visibly hate the President and other world leaders. They are disgusted with the Church, the news media, and just about everything else.
You may be concerned with all the news reports you hear from around the world, but we should be more focused on the goodness of God and His Word.
It is not a good representation of Christ, when we share negative thoughts or news in every conversation we have with others. We become the "debbie-downer" no one wants to be around. Jesus wasn't like that - everyone flocked to be around him all the time.
Seth Mcbee shares, "Jesus must've known how to share the truth in love, because he definitely shared truth, and yet he still got invited to all the parties." (tweet this)
Philippians 4:8 calls us away from constantly being fixated on the negative: "Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
Let's take this verse literally, and be so positive and joyful, that people want to be around us more!