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 same 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 in many of my books and blog posts.

I once wrote a piece for a periodical explaining why I am a Christian. And 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 – the Prince of Peace – 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 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 never said that this disciple 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 with 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’ gold-plated “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 as the nature of our disagreement.

6. 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.

7. Remember Jesus’ last prayer on earth before He gave His life for us. It gives us a peek 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 . . .

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Comments

  1. says

    Well put.

    Point 1 reminds me of a phrase that keeps coming to mind – a desire to “Cultivate a culture of clarification”. I too easily react to what I think another’s intent is or what I interpret as their meaning.

    Lord, help me.

  2. Matt says

    Frank,

    I came to this page following several links on the sad passing of Matthew Warren. My sympathy goes out to the Warren family and anyone affected by suicide. It’s a most difficult issue. In your article about responses to Matthew’s passing, you indicated that non-believers arare non-believers because of the way Christians treat each other. Although I can’t provide a thorough statistical analysis, I am confisent that this “reason” is not pervasive among non-believers as a primary reason for non-belief. In fact, it has nothing to do with belief structure at all. I would challenge the individual you cite in this article to re-evaluate their belief system if that is their reason for not believing. I like to consider myself an Agnostic, although it’s pribably more likely that I am a true atheist. With all due respect, I would hope that you can do a better job of answering your own question: Why don’t non-believers believe? The real answer runs much deeper and is much more rooted in evidence and reason than you assign to us. Please feel free to discuss this with me by e-mail if you like. Thank you. – Matt

    • says

      Matt: You’ve misread the post. Nowhere does it state THE reason why non-believers don’t believe. It simply stated ONE of the reasons why SOME non-Christians choose not to get involved in Christianity. This is so prevalent that it would be presumptuous on our part to doubt their testimony. We can’t read people’s minds and as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, it’s wrong to judge another person’s motives. We certainly wouldn’t want someone presuming as to the *real* reason why we believe.

  3. Nathan Lambshead says

    Maybe this is why I fundamentally became a messianic Jew from being a christian? Their chart is a lot better. lol

  4. Kevin Tindall says

    Jesus asked, “Kevin, why is it my people who call themselves by my name, cannot extend to one another the same grace I have extended to them?” Kevin responded. I do not know Lord. Jesus said, “Self righteousness.”

    • Nancy says

      Yes, Kevin, that would explain a lot of reasons for rejection of those who are “just not good enough” for the inner circle.

  5. Mark Bernard says

    Frank you are right (once agaIn). It is my personal conviction that until we live out the kind of cross based fellowship that the NT envisioned then we will not see Jesus evangelism plan comes to pass that in our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ the world will know that He has come cf John 17:23. There is one thing that I will add, however. Gandi’s excuse will not cut the mustard in the last day, as the issue is not the church, ultimately, it is Christ. I came to Jesus Christ because a revelation of Him, and that is the measuring stick by wich salvation is measured. So let us love one another, but not because of any other reason than because He first loved us.

  6. Jack says

    The Ghandi quote you referenced used to be my favorite, especially after I became a Christian. When I learned more about the person of Christ and His love for the church- made up of Christians- I felt like a fool. How could I love the Christ and judge the ones Christ loves so dearly? I had held people up to impossible standards and required very little of myself, because after all I had Christ in me. When it hit me that I had been walking in the flesh, but truly thought I was walking in the Spirit there was nothing left to judge in another. Things happen. People fail miserably. The point of all of this is to look past the person and see the Christ in them. When I’ve judged a Christian, I had forgotten that Christ was in there. How humbling. We can never be reminded too much about how to treat each other. Thanks for the post.

  7. Roger Street says

    Dear Frank,

    I’m in a great little church where we are trying to move theological thought and discussion along in a manner which helps us witness to the world more effectively. There is a range of theological positions which we try to articulate to one another whilst sustaining our worship and prayer and fellowship together. It’s a challenge disagreeing with fellow members and your comments are both a personal challenge and a help.

    Many thanks.

  8. Kenneth Dawson says

    I recently had someone who claims to be Christian attack me on Facebook on a comment I made to another Christian..my first reaction was to want to argue with them..instead I turned the situation over to The Lord and he calmed me down..my reaction back to both of them was of his spirit and all turned out peaceful.

  9. Vinny says

    Because of the exhaustive and mostly fruitless efforts for years trying to figure out how tho live the “christian life” I came to my end cried out to Jesus for help and the summation of this blog is what I believe the deafening whisper I heard in response to this cry.
    Since I have obeyed this whisper and moved towards ” OneAnothering” as I believe He wants me to not necessarily the way handed down to me from our forefathers. I have begun to experience an intimacy with Him who loves us and others that is indescribable.
    Loving OneAnother as if it is Him is not hyperbole but true, especially among his children and until He lets us peek into His book of life love as if they are.
    Best decision I ever made since I began to walk with Him :-)

  10. Greg Dressel says

    I love what Robin McMillian said, “Your judgement of what other people’s motives are binds you to unforgiveness. Key to forgiveness, “they know not what they are doing.” Forgiveness becomes easier when we stop assuming intent.

    I have come to understand that there is stuff in my heart all the time that the Father is dealing with, I could not see. How the heck could I think I could see in someone else heart?

    Set us free from that Lord. May Your High Priestly prayer for unity become known in our day.

  11. larry w says

    I found myself in your blog and will pray for the Holy Spirit to guard my mind and mouth. Thank you. Love your blog posts. I am your brother in Christ.

  12. kelli says

    I often times think that people don’t want to listen to Christians not only because of how we treat one another in our own “circle” but also how we treat anybody in general that is different from us and our beliefs/views. When we try to shove our own ideas, beliefs, doctrines, etc. down anyone else’s throat, regardless of whether they are a Christian or not, we do ourselves a disservice and maim the name of Christ.

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