Warning: The World is Watching How We Christians Treat One Another

 October 23, 2012 By

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?”

My answer: “Yes, that sums it up well.” These two themes are underscored and unpacked in Revise Us Again, Jesus Manifesto, and Beyond Evangelical.

Not long ago I wrote a piece for a periodical explaining why I am a Christian (which I’ll republish here in the future). 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.”

Take a look at this graphic which shows how people search for “Christians” on Google in comparison to “Muslims” and “Jews.” (Credit goes to my friend John Saddington for this analysis).

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:

1. 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 who 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.

2. 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?

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Remember that the world is watching how we Christians treat one another and talk to 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.

7. 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 . . .

10 thoughts on “Warning: The World is Watching How We Christians Treat One Another

  1. Coming from a school perspective, this is so true. Students who are not believers are watching those who are to see how they react in certain situations. Wouldn’t it be great if when people think of Christians, their focus is on our love for each other. A good article to keep us thinking.

  2. Unbelievers miss the fact that we believers are human. We make mistakes and say and do stupid things sometimes. I’m not excusing the actions of some loopy “Christians”, but, come on, we’re not perfect. We are all works in progress, and we get it wrong constantly. And one other thing – “people in glass houses……”

  3. “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.” Ghandi

    So the story goes, but I’m sure he met other Christians who were more Christlike. We don’t become Christians because of Christians, but because we see Christ, and the Holy Spirit convinces us of our need of Him.

    I understand the illustration, and many people use the folly of the humanity of Christians as their excuse for rejecting Christ, but in anyone’s journey there is more than one person who reveals Christ in a good way, and even shares the truth of Christ evangelistically.

    The judgment is far too harsh.

    If Christians have an enthusiasm for passionately discussing their faith, and working through the differences in understanding of some of the issues, they are showing their hunger.

    Passive Christianity is far more destructive than passionate Christianity. The very epistles declare the power of well crafted apologetics. As Jude says, we need to contend earnestly for the faith.

    Our defence is our standard. The Armour of God is the protective garment of truth, righteousness, salvation, peace and prayer. Our only weapon of offence is the Word.

  4. Just saw the “Holy Rollers” documentary on ABC 2. A group of Christians, mainly Pastors, Youth Pastors and Worship leaders who earn their money by card-counting in Vegas casinos.

    They can get enough money in a couple of days to support themselves and their families for a month, and that means they can devote the rest of their time to the ministry.

    They dont have any problem telling people they are Christians, in fact when the police arrest them and ask how it is that they can trust each other not to steal or misrepresent their winnings, they say “because we are Christians”.

    Fascinating stuff : http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/28080

  5. I never understood why card counting was illegal. Interesting way for Christians to make money though. I won some money at the casino once. Had a fairly foolproof system. Felt bad about it for a couple of days as I was told it was a sin. Got over it though.

  6. Passive Christianity is far more destructive than passionate Christianity.

    I agree. I don’t think it’s passionate Christianity that turns people off😣…it’s the judgemental, hypocritical face that causes people to react. We all have different ideas about what that entails…therein lies the problem as we each feel the need to be true to what we believe God has called is to.

  7. Card counting is not illegal if it is done in your head – from what I know. Actually, with Melbourne Cup coming up, it’s an interesting article. It was strange being an Aussie and thinking it was wrong to even KNOW which horses were in the race.

    From those who don’t even take a free lucky dip to Catholics who I understand bless jockeys and of course hold the bingo nights – there sure is a variety of thinking.

    My thinking (and I realize it’s probably wrong….) is that it’s not that much worse for a Christian to spend a dollar on an lottery that could win them millions instead of that fifth cream donut.

    On the flip side, I actually know people who have lost everything they own on poker machines.

    John Piper says that every roll of the dice in Los Vegas is decided by God. (So maybe the real trick is to get God to tell you the numbers…)

  8. Isn’t it hypocritical for this post on this website? Always finding negative or critical posts here…which is why I usually avoid the site.

  9. Darryl I think if you read over the past couple of months of posts and comments you will find that there has been a seismic shift in posting and commenting etiquette around here. This particular post is a reflection of where we are headed as a community. Had tis post been up about 3-4 months ago you would have been dead right – very hypocritical – but we are trying to re-defign who we are as a blogging community – I hope you’ll give us a chance and not avoid us so much.


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