Hanging out with Christians can be an awesome experience. They can be so supportive, so full of hope, and so life-giving. I highly recommend it
Because hanging out with Christians can also be an awful experience. They can be so self-centered, so judgmental, and so rude. What makes it worse is we expect Christians to be… well… like Christ. So we assume things.
We assume they’ll conduct themselves with love and grace, yet we’re stung in our very souls when they don’t. Have you ever wondered why that kind of behavior happens in Christian circles?
Perhaps this thought has crossed your mind: “I know I will be forgiven, so my conduct doesn’t matter.” I think I’ve encountered people like this. The first responsibility to get dropped is the one at church. After all, they’ll forgive me, right? If I’m rude, they’ll get over it, right?
And aren’t my Christian friends are there for me to vent on 24/7? (Which, by the way is true… but is there not also a responsibility for me to be there for them when they need to vent? Or to encourage them when life gets hard?).
I sometimes get the sense that the word “mutual” has gone missing from the vocabulary of Christian community. How do I know this? Because sometimes I’m the guilty one.
While it’s nice for our Christian brothers and sisters to be able to practice forgiveness, we shouldn’t make it our life’s goal to give them constant opportunities. There are ramifications of disregarding our behavior and abusing forgiveness.
We fail to notice that our actions don’t only impact our Christian brothers and sisters. While they may actually forgive us, they aren’t the only ones watching.
Consider the impact of disregarding our behavior on outsiders. As people view our conduct, they are also evaluating Christianity… and even Christ. Gandhi said it this way:
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Gandhi
At least Gandhi was able to differentiate between Christians and Christ. Others aren’t able to make the distinction, so they don’t want anything to do with Christ. In essence, our behavior has turned them away from our savior. Can you think of any greater tragedy?
So how do we solve our behavior dilemma? I think we start with awareness. We should recognize that forgiveness is plan B. It’s a restorative mechanism when plan A gets derailed. So what’s plan A, you ask?
Romans 12 offers several suggestions for how to live together in Christian community. I’m particularly drawn to these verses:
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Rom 12:9–10 NLT)
I wonder what would happen if we spent as much time and energy on plan A as we currently do on plan B? What if we lived in genuine love? What if we took delight in honoring each other?
I’ll bet we wouldn’t have to spend so much time forgiving each other!
And I’ll bet we’d be awesome to hang out with: so supportive, so full of hope, and so life-giving….