Oct 19, 2007

you asked for it: mean christians

Following the next in the list, Derek asked a very popular question in our culture (and churches) today: "Why are there so many mean Christians?"

Wow. That sounds like a loaded question.

Honestly... I don't know. I also honestly don't know why sometimes I can inadvertantly be one of them.

The only pattern I've ever seen that creates critical, mean Christians is when their own insecurities take over.

Maybe this is because it's hard for a Christian to gauge spiritual growth. We don't always know if we've grown or if we've just gotten more intelligent about spiritual things. So we create a lot of rules that smell like Scripture but really are our own desire to feel in control... and we use them to tear others up.

Then there's the matter of struggle... there can be temptations a Christian will struggle with today that they struggled with ten years ago - gluttony, greed, lying, lust, judging... you name it. This can be embarassing for many to admit, especially if they've been at it for a while. And so instead of fessing up they look at the sins of others and talk about "those people."

Sometimes, though, it isn't just sin that creates insecurity but it can even be theological ideas we have spoken about with great volume and passion... only to realize that some of what we proclaimed may be more of a half-idea we came up with or picked up - Scripture's involved, but there's some personal insert that we recognize was off. This can be embarassing to admit if we've ever taught others about it, so sometimes Christians become mean and pick apart others who ask questions or think differently... because they're afraid to say, "I might have been wrong about that thing I taught you."

Then there are those times we said we "prayed" about something to justify doing what we wanted to do, but really the prayer was one-sided and we never really, really leaned in to ask God what He wanted us to do. So we create a hole of hypocrisy - because we said we prayed about it we'd lose all credibility if we fessed up. This can be embarassing to admit if we ever hope to again utter the phrase, "God told me..." and maintain some level of credibility.

Once this insecurity starts to take over, the attack pattern (not mere disagreement, but attack pattern) usually goes like this:
  • The easy targets... those awful "sinners" who corrupt the young and publicly promote a lifestyle that runs against the Scriptures.

  • The religious targets... those "dumb people" (pardon the expression, please note the quotes) who believe in religions or alternative belief systems that stand opposed to the Bible.

  • The political targets... the liberals or conservatives who share their ideas that run contrary to our... which somehow we believe is anti-Christian of them to do.

  • The silly targets... the silly Christians who do silly things and sell silly books about silly ideas (substitute the word silly for other popular words, like "dumb," "false," "idiot," "heretical," etc.)

  • The close targets... the people who happen to fall into our line of sight while we're wrestling through our own insecurities.

And once we get in the habit of doing that, pretty soon we become mean Christians.

Tonight my son and I spoke about teasing... he had an experience with some "friends" that turned negative. You know how sometimes kids who want to feel more secure will put others down or distance themselves in order to feel superior. Have you ever seen this happen?

And I don't mean just kids, I mean - have you ever seen Christians put others down or distance themselves in order to feel superior? It all tracks back to insecurity.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mathew 9:9-13)

So here is Jesus - the most secure of all - investing himself into a group of people that most American Christians would avoid. Of course, we read that and want to think of ourselves as Jesus... but how often are we like the Pharisees?

Here's good news, though... Jesus even welcomed the Pharisees into His fold, but the only one we read about who took Him up on it Nicodemus. The rest of them were too busy talking about how Jesus was a heretic to simply follow Him as Lord.

Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?"

"No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.

"You mean he has deceived you also?" the Pharisees retorted. "Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them."

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?"

They replied, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee." (John 7:45-52)

So my son and I spoke about how sometimes you can't stop people from teasing you. You'd think this would stop at a certain age, but it doesn't - even adults will tease other adults.

What you can decide, though, is how you will respond to it. It takes a lot of God-inspired discernment to see through someone else's attacks and love them for who they are beneath the surface. While we often do well at loving those who are like us, it is sometimes difficult to love the person who stands against us in some way. Praying for these folks can seem unnatural due to the hidden desire we often have to see them receive equal punishment for any hurt they have caused us. When we pray for them, though, we begin a process of discovering a kingdom perspective that breaks the cycle of relational hostility.

And when we do that, we are less tempted to react.

And when that happens, perhaps there's one less mean Christian in the world.


Barbara (aka Layla) said...

This is a good one, I may be back to comment later.

derek said...

thanks for answring this!!! what i dont get is why so many people who are mean like this call themselves christians and sometimes even pastors just tell you to get some thick skin instead of admitting that their words hurt people. now that you pointed out the insecurity thing that makes alot of sense because ive seen this alot in people who cant handle their tiny little version of life being questioned or that they might be wrong. i would love for christians and pastors to be known for better things that that and am so very thankful that you are choosing to be the kind of christian and pastor who actually follows jesus in this!!! nice job!!!!!

Carolanne said...

Great reply Tony and also a great application for us all, too.

Rick said...

Insecure? Maybe. The "meaner" Christian I have encountered were the more legalistic ones.


Tony Myles said...

I'd agree, Rick... then you have to ask, though, where does legalism come from - security or insecurity?

Anonymous said...

I think there are mean Christians because many Christians are not really Christians at all.

Christianity today has become a source of personal power to one-up people who are not Christian or who are not as Christian as you are.

Therefore power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. People are people and often Christians are passive aggressive not wanting to admit...hey....your still human.

Abortion, Extra-marital Sex, Homosexuality....those are too obvious and easy targets.....Christians should address gossip (no#1 "church" problem); backbiting, slander, lying, deception, strife-causers, jealousy, envy, insincerity, ....address those sins first then they can talk about the other ones. To God they are all one and the same. So while one arrogant Christian who is gossiping or snobbing somone because they are not as Christian as them, is also putting down someone who is gay, had an abortion or is having extramarital sex, they are in a position of not removing the wood from their own eye....hypocrite. That's the big problem...there are too many hypocrites in the church.

Tony Myles said...

No argument there... I'm not sure that there is a church out there without hypocrites. After all, if we could lead a consistent life we wouldn't need Jesus to begin with.

What I think you're saying beyond that, though, is that the church is full of people who won't admit or see their hypocrisy... which is (unfortunately) something I have to agree with, too.

I'm just glad Jesus gets the final word. Maybe some of the "unrighteous" will turn out "righteous" after all.

Marna said...

Being a christian is a process. Accepting Christ is a moment. But the "being" process is ongoing and maturity takes time. Knowing God intimately changes us as the intimacy grows. Remember "babies" or "children". They are christians too. Then with maturity and intimacy we learn and experience LOVE. It's about the relationship - and the LOVE. I'll bet the pharisees began by wanting to know more about God, but it became more intellect and less relationship. It has to be personal to change us. Otherwise, we are all nothing but "pharisees".

Lee said...

I agree with the comments about getting a "Thicker" skin. Christians, for lack of better words, exhibits the disorder known as NPD. Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

I have dealt with some very dark and evil people and most of them are Christians. I am currently dealing with a family member with this disorder now. Believe me, it is not pleasant and is causing me health problems due to the stress and constant anxiety.

It is so bad here that I had to ask a blogger for prayer and counseling because I had nobody else to talk to or someone that would understand. I live on the brink of being homeless again due to this maltreatment.

These Christians are comfortable with casting stones since they believe in their hearts, they are sinless. Which, in itself, is Sin.

I will even go on further to say that these Christians are Psychopaths. There is an epidemic of this disorder in this country with Christian churches having no problem endorsing war on other countries and its peoples. The most obvious are wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine. I should add that Syria and Iran are next.

I will say that Christians have treated me with the most cruelty I have ever felt of any human being.

Lee said...

Hey, here's an interesting concept, "SALVATION FOR CHRISTIANS".

Tony Myles said...

Perhaps part of the problem is how easy it is for people to call themselves Christians without having surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ. I wonder if the people who hurt you so badly weren't Christians at all - they merely knew the language and dressed the part. After all, wouldn't a "Christian" seek to restore versus condemn?