I read another defense of rude Christians the other day and only just resisted the urge to pull my hair out. Or scream text a reply. Cringing, I patted myself on the back for my forbearance, and came away asking a question fundamental to the practice of our faith. Why are Christians so rude when God’s heart is loving-kindness?
When we think about what drives our norms and social paradigms, our picture of God doesn’t carry enough weight. We tend to look to psychology, rule-making, and mission statements over theology. When I look at the Bible, and particularly the ministry of Jesus, I see a different approach.
What the Bible says
Psalm 63:3-4 New King James Version (NKJV)
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
1 Peter 1:15 New Living Translation
But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.
Lamentations 3:22-23 New International Version (NIV)
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Matthew 5:43-48 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
It doesn’t matter which translation you peruse. Whether you are browsing the books of Law, the Prophets, Psalms, the Gospels, or New Testament Letters, God’s character–and particularly God’s love–are the basis for how we live our lives. There is an expectation that our knowledge of a good, loving, holy God will impact the choices we make in our daily lives. God’s character is supposed to shape our character. We must become children of our Creator.
What our lives demonstrate
With that truth in mind, how do we answer the question that started my ponderings? If God’s heart is characterized by love and kindness, why are Christians so happy to be rude? And why, for the literal sake of Christ, are Christians so quick to defend the rudeness of other Christians?
The only answer I have is that our hearts are so far from the heart of God, we are in danger of apostasy. That statement sounds super judgmental, but let’s see what the Apostle Paul says about what our lives will be like if we are connected to our Creator through the Holy Spirit:
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Those words “by contrast” set this list in opposition to a list of worldly attitudes and actions that came before in the text. It includes what we would consider “big” sins like sorcery alongside “little” sins like anger, jealousy, and envy. When we are connected to God, we produce fruit that contrasts to the fruit of living to please ourselves.
The solution is connection
The biggest argument in defense of rudeness in that online conversation: Christians are not perfect. And we should be glad these people go to church so that they can be healed. I don’t expect people walking into church for the first time to be fully sanctified saints. I do think there is a problem when we believe going to church is what makes us holy.
Somewhere we’ve lost sight of the God who traveled with the people through the wilderness, the Jesus who walked the road with his disciples, and the Spirit who empowers us to be so identified as God’s children that we can love our enemies. When we can no longer hear God’s heartbeat, we have drifted away.