7 Reasons Christians Act So Un-Christlike *NEW*
Hello Critical Thinkers!
After years of evangelism, it saddens me to report that the most common objection to Christianity I've heard is the behavior of Christians. Typically, you'll hear Christians are hypocrites, divisive, judgment obsessed...unfortunately I can go on all day.
Responding to these objections is pretty straight forward:
Christianity is about Christ not Christians.
Because humans are flawed beings, we all behave in ways that goes against our values at times.
Christianity is not about attracting perfect people, it's about forming imperfect people into the image of Christ.
These points serve to explain to the skeptic that bad Christians don’t invalidate Christianity, but we still need to examine the underlying issue further:
Why do Christians, who are supposed to be loving, upstanding followers of Christ, behave in ways that are so un-Christlike to the world and to each other?
I’ve identified 7 reasons that I think covers most cases (in America at least). Hopefully I’ve managed to offend everyone equally😊 Tell me what you think in the comments section after!
#1 Too Little Proximity
In 1921 the state of Idaho passed laws punishing interracial marriage between a white person and those of African, Chinese, or Indian descent. The crazy part is that Idaho was 99.8% white at the time! Paranoid much?
The fact is, in the absence of personal experience, people tend to draw conclusions about those whose character and fundamental issues they know very little about. No one is exempt. Being sinners, we all have racist, elitist, xenophobic, homophobic or other sinful inclinations, we just choose to feed them or starve them.
Unfortunately, when faced with the fear or hatred of ‘other’, many Christians choose to feed these base inclinations with justifications from the Bible, rather than starve them. So for example, a Christian who has never spent time with people of another race may hold racist thoughts about them. However instead of challenging them they may twist scripture to support their opposition to interracial marriage like the Idaho lawmakers mentioned above. Once that hate has been Christianized it is very difficult to root out.
This type of Christian fails to change because they are positively affirmed by their immediate group (that looks, acts, thinks just like them). But people tend to give grace to their tribe, and more harshly judge ‘other’. The real test of your character is how people in the ‘other’ group would describe encounters with you.
In Jesus we see the ultimate model of loving ‘other’. Jesus who is perfect and holy left heaven to be with messy sin filled people on earth. He doesn’t stand and judge from afar, he identifies with our struggle by becoming man. In other words, he became proximate.
#2 Too much Proximity
“Good friends help you bury the body…best friends don’t ask why there is a body.”
Most people struggle to hold a strict moral stance with those they love most. So for instance, you preach that murder is wrong until your best friend in the world shows up at 2a.m. needing to bury a body (totally an illustration btw!). Then it becomes, “Murder is wrong if…” [insert justifications]. Or how about the more common, “I know sex before marriage is wrong, but they’re young and in love and being safe.” “Dealing drugs is horrible but he was trying to feed his family.”…You get my point.
Just as God judges those who hate, God also judges those who go against his word by relaxing standards. See God’s reaction to King Saul in 1 Samuel: 18-19 when he failed to destroy everything as God instructed. God is looking for Christians to have their standards dictated by one source only, him. Not their feelings, their relationship to the wrongdoer, or their political affiliations.
The problem is that many Christians spin their flexible values as a display of God’s love. As I outlined in my post, “Attend the Gay Wedding?”, supporting behavior that leads to God’s judgment of a loved one is the opposite of being Christlike. When Jesus came down, he became proximate not an enabler.
#3 Lack of Conflict Resolution Skills
Christians have been taught a lot about how to deal with the sin debt between man and God, but precious little on how to deal with sin debt between human and human. Poor conflict resolution skills can turn the best Christians into raging bulls.
The advice to just love and forgive everyone is far too simplistic to cover the many ways in which people act out their brokenness. Two Bible believing, Jesus following, tithe paying Christians can passionately disagree on many issues. And what about our well-meaning brothers and sisters that are let's say...mentally off:)? These scenarios require communication strategies not Christian clichés.
How do you express yourself in a non-threatening way? How do you lovingly listen? When is best to discuss intense issues with someone you oppose? These practical lessons can get lost in the church’s desire to place a spiritual band aid on conflict. For more on this read my article “Navigating Difficult Conversations with Truth and Love”.
#4 Idolatry (Graphic)
What I mean by idolatry is the excessive love of anything you end up placing over God and his commands. For example, if you want to know if money is your idol, ask yourself: If your business partner engages in shady business practices, but is key to you keeping your wealth, do you justify their behavior or follow the Bible and not be unequally yoked with that character?
This is a huge issue in the American church given the prevalence of identity politics, nationalism, humanism, pride, and greed. People are connecting themselves more to men and man made institutions than to Christ and the body.
The shift in morality that follows this loyalty is frankly scary to watch. For instance we now see Christian leaders who publicly stated a president (on the ‘other’ side) should have high morals in 1994, now only require a president (on their side) to uphold their lifestyle in 2019. We see Christians who were not comfortable with abortion before, now be okay with the killing of baby survivors of botched abortions after birth, since that means a loss for the ‘other’ side. Today the need to get a win for your team is stronger than the need to be right before God.
If the hold on the things of the world is stronger than the hold of God’s word, it’s probably time to reexamine your faith. More on this in the next three points.
#5 Evangelism Not Your Priority
In July of this year, the United States president tweeted that a group of sitting Congresswomen should go back to where they came from if they didn’t like his policies. In support, a Virginia Pastor posted the photo above saying “America: Love it or leave it.” By his own admission this was a message aimed at the sitting congresswomen and others who oppose the president.
If I could ask this Pastor one question, it would be: How does this advance the kingdom?
The photo is the perfect representation of the mixed messaging Christians send the world. The name of the church is Friendship Baptist, yet the message is not so friendly. The message supports the disrespect of sitting congresswomen, while its author and Christians like him demand respect for the president as part of a Biblical mandate to respect leaders in office.
When we say God is about love and display hate, we are not concerned with making Christ attractive or coherent to nonbelievers. When we relax Biblical standards and call it love, we are helping someone live comfortably in their sin versus striving with God towards salvation and holiness. None of this displays a heart for evangelism and so none of it is Christlike.
#6 Lack of Intimacy with God
If you wanted to become a better basketball player, what do you think would move you further towards your goal? Reading a book about Michael Jordan, or reading a book about and spending time with Michael Jordan? Clearly the latter would help you more, by a long shot!
The same goes for the Christian walk. It's great to read the Bible and or devotionals, but nothing replaces spending time with the Lord. In reading the Bible and spiritual books you learn about God. In spending time with God in prayer and silence you receive the grace and strength to be like God.
How do you expect to love people who are not like you (#1), have the strength to confront those in your camp who are doing wrong (#2), stay civil in the midst of heated debate (#3), fuel the desire to see souls saved (#4), and put pleasing God above all else (#5) without daily spending time in his presence?
In this busy world many of us Christians are not doing this, and it shows!
#7 You Ain’t No Christian
Finally, some of the bad press Christians have received is not our fault at all. It’s these faulty laws! It is totally legal to claim Christianity with not an ounce of evidence or sincerity. Unfortunately, when these ‘Christians’ sneeze the whole body of Christ catches a cold.
Here is my working definition of Christian:
A born-again, fruit bearing believer who has submitted their life to Jesus Christ.
(Notice that doesn’t include the words perfect or well-meaning.)
In 1st century Palestine, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were groups of men that were highly respected for their knowledge of Jewish law. However, when Jesus began his public ministry, he called them out as hypocrites for not practicing what they preached (Matthew 23:2-7). The same goes for ‘Christian’ leaders today. There are many that falsely speak for the church who will meet God one day, and God will say ‘I never knew you…’ (Matthew 7: 23)
As much as this is a concern for the reputation of the body of Christ, my concern is more with those who are fooling themselves. I hope this serves to start a process of self-examination (starting with myself) among those reading this. It is not too late to examine Christianity and truly make it your own, or to rededicate yourself to the one who gave himself for you. Making Christ and Christianity attractive starts with each one of us.
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Ciao for now!