Warning: The World is Watching How We Christians Treat One Another
“If Christians cannot extend grace through faithful presence within the body of believers, they will not be able to extend grace to those outside.” - James Davison Hunter
Recently, someone asked me the following question:
“Frank, if I had to summarize your ministry, it would be that Jesus is more than we ever imagined and we can learn to live by His life which is evidenced by treating others the way we want to be treated. Would you say that this is accurate?”
Not long ago I wrote a piece for a periodical explaining why I am a Christian. I ended the piece by asking why those who aren’t Christians have decided not to follow Jesus (yet, at least). Here’s what one person wrote:
“I’m not a Christian because of how most of the Christians I’ve known treat each other. Not loving like their founder taught but just the opposite. I like that your list wasn’t apologetic or combative but personal and I respect that. Rare but nice to see.”
This harkens back to Gandhi’s famous line,
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ ... If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian.”
This graphic shows some of the serious stereotypes that we Christians are up against. Unfortunately, the stereotypes are often painfully true.
It’s not uncommon for some Christians to throw verbal assaults at one another on Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and other Internet venues. As a result, the world sees people who profess to follow Jesus: fighting, misrepresenting one another, and even “blocking” one another.
“But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you don’t consume one another” (Galatians 5:13).
There once were two cats of Kilkenny
Each thought there was one cat too many
So they fought and they fit
And they scratched and they bit
‘Til excepting their nails
And the tips of their tails
Instead of two cats there weren’t any.
Civil disagreement and even debate, when done in the spirit of Christ, are healthy and helpful.
But when disagreements descend into second-guessing motives, distortions of one another’s words, mischaracterizations of one another’s views and personal attacks, then we’ve moved into the flesh.
The net is that the name of Jesus gets tarnished in no small way.
So how do we change that?
Here are 7 points to consider the next time you think you have a possible disagreement with another Christian:
- Go to them privately and ask them what they meant by what they said, did, or wrote or what they allegedly said, did, or wrote.
Jesus said to go to your brother/sister in private if we have an issue with them. Since we don’t want to misrepresent others in public, going to them directly helps prevent this. And you would want the same treatment if the shoe happened to be on your foot.
About six months ago, I was reading someone’s Facebook wall where they quoted a friend of mine who came out with a new book on evangelism. The entire thread was about what my friend may have meant or didn’t mean. People got angry at one another. Some began blocking others. (These are Christians mind you.)
Finally, a woman jumped in and said, “Excuse me ... but instead of questioning what he may have meant or didn’t mean, why you don’t you just write him a message and ask him? He’s on Facebook, you know.”
Her remark arrested everyone and you could smell the embarrassment. Amazingly, no one ever thought to even try to contact my friend and ask. If they had done so in the beginning, the whole issue would have been resolved and the carnage wouldn’t have even begun.
- When you go to another believer privately, ask them questions.
Don’t make accusations. Again, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “How would I want to be treated if this person was me and I had concerns or possible problems with them?” In my experience, I’ve found that accusations based on second or third-hand information are usually inaccurate. And they are often rooted in misunderstandings.
One time Jesus made a statement about one of His followers saying, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this remark, a rumor spread among the disciples that the disciple Jesus was referring to would never die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:22-23)
If Jesus — the perfect Teacher — was misunderstood by those who were in His corner, how much more does it happen to us?
- Never, ever, evah, nevah judge the motives or intentions of another human being.
To do so is to sin against them and against God. You and I cannot read someone else’s heart. While it’s fine to question someone’s judgment, it’s wrong to judge their motives. “Love thinks no evil,” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, but it always believes the best of others. Again, this is covered under Jesus’ golden, “do unto others” commandment.
- Never entertain gossip or slander about another sister or brother in Christ.
Again, treat others the same way you want them to treat you. Jesus not only commanded this, He said this commandment fulfills the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 7:12). By the way, I’ve found that many Christians don’t know what slander or gossip is (unless it’s happening to them). They mistakenly think that if something is true or half-true, it’s not gossip or slander. Not so. Jon Zens’ remarkable article on this subject is the best I’ve ever read. Every Christian should read it.
- Seek peace with all you have.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” Paul said in Romans 12:18. We aren’t going to agree on everything. In fact, I am unaware of any book that exists where all Christians agree with every word or understand every word the same way. That includes the Bible itself.
None of us can claim immaculate perception. So we should be open for correction. But how you approach someone is incredibly important. How we treat one another while we disagree is just as important with the nature of our disagreement.
- Remember that the world is watching how we Christians treat one another and talk about one another.
You can be the greatest evangelist on planet Earth in terms of being able to boldly witness to non-Christians about Jesus. And you can blow the loudest trumpet about mission and discipleship. But if you treat your fellow sisters and brothers in Christ in ways that you would never want to be treated yourself, then you nullify your evangelistic efforts. In addition, how you treat your fellow brothers and sisters is monumentally important to our Lord.
- Remember Jesus’ last prayer on earth before He gave His life for us.
It gives us a peak into what’s foremost in His heart. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (John 17:20-21).
May the Lord have mercy on us all ....
CC Image • Laenulfean on Flickr
- Adam Smith published the blogpost The Simple Things in Life – Tiny House Living – Vincent Russell.
- Courtney Rowland published the blogpost Creamy Parmesan Leek and Mushroom Pasta #SundaySupper.
- Audra Jennings published the blogpost “Real Women Leading” iPad Mini Giveaway and “Leading with Values” Facebook Party 3/20!.
- Kelly Pigott published the blogpost Ashes, Tattoos, the Sign of the Cross, and my Friend Connie.
- Walter Bright published the blogpost Be thou removed: Prayer of a man they called “Consecrated Cobbler.
- George Krickl published the blogpost Poor in Spirit: Paul and Barnabas Discipleship Continued.
- Jennifer Collins just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- Doris SwiftOur greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter.” ― D.L. Moody
- Doris SwiftEmerge from ordinary into extraordinary; rise above, set apart, walking in the plan as He directs the steps...
- Doris SwiftIf you're feeling stuck in your writing journey~remember, every new idea-every word written propels you forward
- Jon StallingsIf we focus our prayers just on Jesus delivering us from the trials of life, we have set up our own life as an idol
- Melcome Feldspar just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- Leon Bloder published the blogpost Shouldn't All Christians Be Universalists At Heart?.
- Jennifer Alayo-AguilarI am so excited to be here. This is something new that I have never tried before. I am glad to be alive to witness this, a blog post check-out site for Christians around the country, the world to connect with one another. The mini-neighborhood is pretty good. Say prayers for me, my husband, and the rest of our family as we get our lives back together and get on the right track with Jesus Christ. Amen.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost Livestream Simply Youth Ministry Conference be a part of it!.
- George BullardMarch 8th: Transform Congregations By Radical Missional Engagement #365SSIFTC http://bullardjournal.blogs.com/bullardjournal_microblog/2014/03/march-8th-transform-congregations-by-radical-missional-engagement-365ssiftc.html
- Jennifer Alayo-Aguilar just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- Greg Winfield published the blogpost The Blessing of Struggle – Do You Know What You’re Made of?.
- Stephanie L Burr just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- Mike Liebler published the blogpost 10 Reasons Why Youth Ministry Is A Strategic Career Choice.
- Evan Nehring published the blogpost Announcement: Life Sentence Publishing Partnership.
- Matthew Tan published the blogpost "Justice, Unity & the Hidden Christ": Review in Ethika Politika.
- Brian Dodd published the blogpost The Top 10 Leadership Posts I Read The Week Of March 3rd.
- Nathan Wheeler published the blogpost Prayer, a beautiful mistake: Atheism For Lent Part 1.
- Allen O'Brien published the blogpost Mark Driscoll’s Publishing Tactics Trigger A Golden Age For Christian Publishing.
- Brad Russell published the article FaithVillage Expands Church Partnerships with 10 New Features.
- GREG WHITAKER just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- Bill Reichart published the blogpost How To Supercharge Your Productivity With Evernote.
- Jotham David Parker published the video Truth (Christian Dance Hymn. Full Song with Lyrics).
- Myra Lee just moved in. Take time to say hey.
- FRANK NADJOMBE created a new gallery