“Why are Christians so…?”
Google those words some time and you may (or maybe not) be surprised by what that search brings up. Here’s what popped up for me at the time of this writing: #1- mean (in fact, I only got as far typing “Why are Christians…” before it popped up on its own) followed by obnoxious, angry, harsh, rude, stingy, unkind, judgmental, hateful, hypocritical, annoying. And unfortunately, if I kept looking the list would go on.
All of these responses are a far cry from the fourth characteristic of the Fruit of the Spirit listed for us in Galatians 5:22-23: Kindness. Why doesn’t “Why are Christians so kind?” pop up on Google searches? Oh, we can say it’s the world and its culture that is inherently opposed to Christian values and deduce that people don’t like to hear the truth and find it to be mean-spirited and harsh. Or that Jesus was met with opposition and persecution, so this is our version of such opposition. Or we can blame it on the internet – that it’s just the clientele and general negativity of social media. While some of those things may be true to some extent, sometimes the best answer is the simplest and most obvious answer. Maybe Christians simply are way too mean way too often. The words ring true of the story of the little girl who prayed, “Lord, make the bad people good and the good people nice.”
When we look at Jesus in the gospels, we see that he was called a lot of things by a lot of people, but unkind was not one of those main accusations (although with one exception, the money-changers may beg to differ!). In fact, if anything, he was accused of being too nice and too kind to “sinners,” earning the label of “friend of sinners” from the Pharisees (the “religious” people). They meant it as a shameful title while Jesus seemed to wear it as a badge of honor.
In his book The Grace and Truth Paradox, Randy Alcorn makes the case that being “like Christ” can be boiled down to two ingredients: grace and truth. He calls this a two-point checklist of Christlikeness. John 1:14 tells us that Jesus, when he took on flesh and came to earth was “full of grace and truth. “ Jesus was full of two things: grace and truth. And it was this combo of being completely 100% full of grace as well as completely 100% full of truth that allowed him to be kind and compassionate while still teaching and living out God’s truth without being mean, obnoxious, angry, harsh, etc.
So here is the magic formula: Grace + Truth = Kindness!
We Christ-followers must wrestle with finding the balance between grace and truth. This mixture is necessary and will produce in us the kindness of God’s Spirit. A truly kind person will not be arrogant, rude or mean-spirited. We get that. But a truly kind person also will not withhold important truth from someone out of fear of rejection or offending. Alcorn sums up this way, “Truth without grace degenerates into judgmental legalism. Grace without truth degenerates into deceitful tolerance…Grace and truth are both necessary. Neither is sufficient.”
FRUIT FOR THOUGHT
- “Truth without grace breeds self-righteousness legalism that poisons the church and pushes the world away from Christ. Grace without truth breeds moral indifference and keeps people from seeing their need for Christ.” –Randy Alcorn
Do you tend to swing to one extreme over the other? How can you better balance the two in your life and witness?
- Do you find it difficult to perform acts of kindness without any strings attached?
- Set a goal to do at least one act of kindness each day for someone who would not expect it from you (i.e. someone other than a family member or good friend) without expecting anything in return .