sad man sitting on a couch

"Why are Christians so mean?"

It's a frequently asked question, sadly.

Let me begin by saying if you feel you've been mistreated by a Christian or you've witnessed someone else mistreated by one, I am sincerely sorry.

That shouldn't happen.

People—and especially Christians—should love one another.

Unfortunately, the reality is it does happen.

I think there are essentially three reasons why Christians are sometimes perceived as mean.

Reason #1: Many "Christians" aren't really disciples of Jesus.

Have you ever known someone who claimed to be something they weren't?

I have.

Today, a lot of people claim the label, "Christian." It's still relatively popular in many places in the world to claim to be a Christian.

And there are a lot of people who like the idea of going to heaven when they die.

Many of these people have been taught and have bought into what I call the False Gospel of Easy Believism™.

The False Gospel of Easy Believism says that all one must do to be saved is:

  • Believe in Jesus as the Son of GOD, and...

  • Pray a prayer asking Him to forgive their sins.

Do this and... presto! You are instantly forgiven of your sins and can do nothing whatsoever to lose this salvation.

No commitment required. No change necessary. It's... easy!

GOD loves us that much. He sent Jesus to suffer on the cross to become our magic genie so we can live however we want, as long as we believe in Him.

So why change? What incentive is there to grow? To become more like Jesus? To exhibit Christ-like character and love of our neighbor?

And so many of these people adopt the name "Christian" and they keep living just like they did before they professed faith in Jesus.

The False Gospel of Easy Believism is a lie.

The truth is:

  • The only person who is truly a Christian is the one who gives every ounce of their being toward becoming like Jesus, exhibiting His character in their life.

  • In order to save a person, they must come to Jesus and make Him their Lord—their master—which means that they give up their perceived right to choose how they live (see Matt. 11:28-30; 7:21; Gal. 2:20; 1 John 2:6).

  • Jesus will never accept those who fake commitment to Him or try to serve both GOD and the pleasures of this world (see Luke 16:13; Rev. 3:14-20).

  • Just because someone claims to be a Christian does not make them one (see Acts 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:12-16). I can claim to be a neurosurgeon, but that doesn't make me one.

  • While nobody is perfect and all people (including Christians) sin, hypocritical Christians do more to damage the cause of Jesus and keep souls out of His kingdom than anything else (see Rom. 2:17-24).

In Scripture, Jesus repeatedly warned His followers of the type of commitment He required. Here is just one example:

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
(Luke 14:25-30 NIV)

Takeaways

  • Fellow Christians:

    • Let us exercise extreme care as to how we walk.

    • Our example is extremely important.

    • We never know who is looking up to or watching us.

  • Non-Christians, please:

    • Recognize that the "Christian(s)" you perceive as mean may not be a Christian at all. Look at the "fruit" of their life. Does it look like Jesus?

    • Know that there are genuine Jesus followers in the world who aren't mean.

    • Avoid the temptation to stereotype all Christians based on some bad experiences.

    • Consider reading what the Scriptures teach regarding how Jesus followers should live.

Reason #2: Christians sometimes fail to demonstrate compassionate love in our zeal for biblical principles.

Now that we've dealt with the hypocrites, let's put them aside and focus on genuine authentic Christians.

Christians believe we have the best news ever: that Jesus offers free payment for sin.

Unfortunately, this great news is preceded by the worst news ever:

  • There is a GOD in heaven who created and judges each of us (see Gen. 1:27; 5:2; 18:25; Psalm 10:13; 75:7).

  • He is holy and can't coexist with sin (see Hab. 1:13).

  • We are each guilty sinners (see Rom. 3:23) and the payment GOD demands for our sins is human blood because life is contained in the blood (see Lev. 17:11).

  • GOD says if we die in our sins, we'll go to hell for eternity (Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 20:11-15; 21:8).

Authentic Christians believe the Bible is GOD's inspired and infallible message to humans.

The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to be saved (see John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

This faith compels genuine Christians to take a firm stance that:

  • There is only one path to GOD (and therefore, to heaven).

  • We must obey the teachings of the Bible and the New Testament, in particular.

  • Sin must be avoided and confronted.

At the same time, Scripture teaches (see Matt. 22:37-39) that the greatest commandments are to:

  1. Love GOD with all of our being.

  2. Love our neighbor as ourselves.

Authentic Christians are convinced that non-Christians (and unrepentant Christians living in sin) are in the gravest of danger because of life's uncertainty.

Because we believe this, our love for others motivates us to warn people. To us, it's a matter of life and death.

We fear hell and we don't want anyone to experience that. Eternity is a long time.

Besides this, we've found true life filled with abundant blessings, and we want to share that with as many people as will listen.

So here's my point for telling you these things...

Sometimes, in our zeal to please GOD and love others, we can come across the wrong way—as pushy or mean.

I've made this mistake before (more than once).

Once, I had a Christian friend who told me he and his Christian wife were getting a divorce. I wasn't surprised because I had observed that their marriage didn't appear healthy as I had rarely seen them together in the weeks preceding this information.

When he broke this news to me over the phone, my thoughts immediately went to how I could get them to change their minds and save their marriage. I was most concerned for their long-term well-being and spiritual condition. And so my response was something like, "Have you told the elders [of the church] yet?"

Although my heart was in the right place, I later learned that this came across to my friend as cold, insensitive and unloving. It hurt him deeply.

And I've regretted it since.

Takeaways

  • Fellow Christians:

    • Remember Jesus' example of compassion to others.

    • Seek to imitate His love that was obviously felt by sinners.

    • Pray that GOD would give us hearts of compassion and the words to communicate truth in a spirit of love.

    • Be patient with others. Love them where they are, regardless of where they are.

  • Non-Christians, please:

    • Try to see the world from a Christian's perspective when they come across as cold or mean. Sometimes people really are jerks, and sometimes people are motivated by love but their human imperfection gets in the way.

    • Help Christians understand your perspective, in a kind manner, so they can realize where they're hurting or offending you. Focus on profitable dialog and not a grenade tossing contest. 

Reason #3: Like unbelievers, authentic Christians sin occasionally.

The third reason why a Christian(s) may come across as mean is simply that they're imperfect too.

This isn't a valid excuse.

It is reality, however.

I'm not always pleasant to be around.

Are you?

I have bad days sometimes. And so does every person I've ever known.

But bad days and meanness should not characterize a Christian. They should be the exception—the temporary behavior, not the norm.

Have you ever known Christians who were unpleasant people to be around?

I have.

A Christian that is regularly unpleasant or mean is a Christian who doesn't understand Jesus and lacks joy.

I've known miserable Christians, but if I'm honest, I tend to lump them into the hypocritical category discussed in point 1.

The truth is that an authentic Christian possesses and should exhibit greater joy than anyone.

Takeaways

  • Fellow Christians:

    • Take inventory. Do people see you as a joyful person? If not, why?

    • Sometimes we really are joyful, but we've forgotten to inform our face. Smile! (This is a challenge for me too, something I work hard at. I'm a contemplative person and sometimes I get lost in thought and forget to smile. I'm not angry or upset. I just forget. Some people think we're smiling when we're really not. Pay attention.)

  • Non-Christians, please:

    • Be patient with us. Christians have problems too and sometimes our focus shifts to the near-term rather than the big picture and we allow the worries of life to weigh us down.

    • Help us see when we're not living as we ought. Your cautions matter to us.

Bonus Reason: Sometimes people confuse disapproval of sin with hatred.

Lastly, a popular narrative today is that if a person doesn't accept my behavior, then they are a "hater." To many, love equates to acceptance of behavior.

As I've already explained, authentic Christians cannot accept, condone, ignore or embrace sin.

That does not mean, however, that Christians should ever fail to love a person—any person, even an enemy.

But what is love in this sense?

The highest form of love—that love Jesus commands us to exhibit towards GOD and our neighbor—is the Greek word agapé. (The majority of the New Testament was written in Greek.) This love means that you pursue the loved one's best interests. It's not an emotional connection but an intentional choice to do what's best for them.

Often, agapé means doing what you'd rather not do—that which is more difficult or uncomfortable.

Often, agapé means saying what the other person doesn't want to hear but needs to hear.

That's the call of Christians, to love people enough to say what needs to be said.

Many times, what needs to be said is offensive to the hearer, because we don't like to be told we're wrong or that we're in sin.

Instead, we like it when people tell us we're okay or when we can make some excuse that we're not responsible. "It's just how I am."

In conclusion, I'm a fan of object lessons. Here's an object lesson for agapé.

agape powerline mouth to mouth

This "kiss" is driven not by lust or even emotional feelings but by what is best for this man's coworker—to save his life.

Be careful not to confuse agapé with hatred. It may just save your life.

Tim Harris
Author: Tim Harris

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