But Seriously…Why Are Christians So Mean?

If you have been in the Church for any length of time, you’ve likely noticed that Christians aren’t perfect people. People are often quick to point out that many Christians walk around angry and mean. If you’ve noticed that, you aren’t alone–or crazy.

I’ve been in the church for awhile, so I’ve run across plenty of these cranky Christians. When I do, it leaves me with frustrating questions: Why do these Christians talk about kindness yet act so harshly? How come I do the same thing? Why is my church-going neighbor a jerk, and why am I a jerk? Shouldn’t we be better? Shouldn’t we be perfect by now?

In other words: Why are Christians so mean?

Recommended resource:

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society
Eugene H. Peterson - Publisher: IVP Books - Edition no. 20 (07/28/2000) - Paperback: 216 pages
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The Worst Surprise Of All Time

It’s arguably the worst surprise of all time, but Christians don’t always act like Jesus. We might look at the people next to us in the pew and scoff at how mean they might be, how sinful they might be, or how we are much farther along in godliness than them.

If our hearts are like this, though, we are too close to the Pharisees for comfort. We say, “Why are Christians so mean?”, when we ought to be looking at our own lives and beating our chest, crying, “God have mercy on me.”

If we think about it, though, Christians being imperfect isn’t news. Being a Christian is, at its core, an admission that we need Jesus, not that we are already perfect. Being a Christian is not saying that we have our act together. If we had our act together then we would not need a Savior.

To act like Christians are to be perfect in this life is a misunderstanding of salvation, and it is an unfair burden to place on others.

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How Does Sanctification Work?
David Powlison - Publisher: Crossway - Paperback: 128 pages
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Off The Hook?

So do we get to say, “Well, we can’t be perfect anyway,” and then move on without the responsibility to live and love like Jesus?

Not exactly. The Bible tells us that we can’t be perfect and simultaneously tells us that we have a responsibility to love our neighbor. It tells us not to be easily angered (for example), which I’ve written about before, even though no one will master it before we arrive heaven.

So what should we do?

We need to recognize that others won’t be perfect and that we aren’t perfect either. We need to recognize that we still have pride in our hearts. In order to crush this pride and move forward to loving our neighbors, we need to be reminded who we are and who Jesus is.

The Gospel and the Mean Christian

The Gospel tells us that none of us are sinless (Romans 3, Psalm 14). We are all born in sin, and we all make a practice of sinning before God saves us (Romans 5, Psalm 51). Without that gracious saving, we would all be equally lost.

Therefore, Christians should not approach others from a place of superiority. Instead, we should be extremely humble. We should recognize that we don’t deserve God’s love any more than our neighbors. We need to understand that even after coming to faith in Jesus we aren’t immediately made perfect. Instead, God starts the slow, painstaking process of making us more like Jesus.

The Gospel reminds us how self-sufficient we are. The Gospel reminds us that we are not the center of the universe—Jesus is. We often approach life as if we deserve everyone else’s honor and praise. We don’t. Jesus does.

Understanding our rightful place opens us up to overlook offenses. When we stop considering ourselves the center of the universe then we can put our anger and bitterness to rest, knowing that we aren’t the king who deserves to be praised perfectly at all times—God is.

Anger and unkindness are deeply connected to pride: pride tells me I have a right to be mad at you. Pride tells me I can give payback to others instead of grace. Pride asks, “how dare they do something like that to me?” Humility reminds us of our rightful place and allows to show grace.

Being a mean, cranky, angry Christian is one of the great indicators that we have lost sight of the grace God has shown to us.

Being a mean, cranky, angry Christian is one of the great indicators that we have lost sight of the grace God Click to Tweet

Be kind, even to people that don’t deserve it; you didn’t deserve God being kind to you. Don’t take yourself too seriously; take your Savior seriously. You aren’t the center of the universe; He is.

Take the opportunity to serve others, even if they treat you terribly; Jesus served you in a greater way than you could ever serve someone else (again, when you did not deserve it).

Turn the tide of the cranky Christian reputation by showing the sacrificial love that you have been shown by Jesus. We can grow in leaps and bounds in this area, and we ought to do so for the sake of our neighbors (John 13:35).

Let the gracious love that God shows you move you to show others that same love. Get off your self-appointed throne, and become a servant that is known for patience, kindness, and love.

David Appelt

David Appelt serves as the music director at NewLife Community Church in Canal Winchester, Ohio. Full-time music snob. He plans on pursuing pastoral ministry in the future.