Modern "Christianity" is boring - and dangerous.
Be nice. Love everyone. Don't worry. Be happy. Share. Don't judge. Give 'til it hurts. Accept the bad with the good - and smile! Never get angry. Keep peace in your soul. Aaaarrrgggghhhh! Sounds like a rerun of the 60's. Enough!
What do you think defines a Christian?
How should they act? How should they treat others? What groups should they join? Which should they avoid? Have you ever thought about it? The paragraph above is correct, as far as it goes. However, there is something in there that few notice. None of those things in that list are to be done at the expense of the truth or at the cost of someone's salvation.
What do I mean by that? On another page on this site (Christian Nice Guy), we show examples from a 2005 book by Paul Coughlin called No More Christian Nice Guy in which Jesus was saying things that would shock the average congregation:
What do you think would happen if Jesus were to appear at your church next Sunday and say to people what he says in the Bible?
And "a brood of vipers fit for hell!"
"Given how nice the church expects Christian men to be, I think we'd rush the pulpit and wrest the microphone from his hand. "Tsk, tsk, tsk," we'd mutter scornfully. We'd wag our fingers, reminding him of the supreme importance placed on manners and appearances in this holy place. Some women, reaching for bars of soap to wash out his mouth, would recite our unofficial church motto: 'If you don't have anything nice to say, Jesus, don't say it at all.' "He really should be ashamed of himself."
Let's approach this discussion in a little different manner. Normally, when defining a Christian, people will list all the things that they hear while sitting in the pews or things they read in the latest syrupy book from the current prosperity author-of-the-day. I remember some times in the Bible when Jesus did not follow that list of nicey-nice actions. But it would be pretty hard to think of Him as not Christian-like.
Do we even have a list to follow?
Let's see if we can find a definition of what society seems to expect from Christians and see how the original Christian fits into that mold.
Where do we start?
To begin a project like this, we need to form a list of acceptable social Christian attributes. Where do you go for something like that? We have some of these in our heads, we see and hear some when we are in church, at home interacting with our parents, others we discover when someone expresses shock over how a "Christian" person acted in some situation. Think about it. Where did you get your idea of how a Christian should act?
Rather than go out and buy a bunch of books with which to compile our list, let's start with the great social gathering place - the internet. It may not be the best place, but then again, it might. Much of what we are exposed to comes from the internet, movies and the television - if you still watch that thing very much.
So many to choose from
A quick search for "Christian attributes" took a whopping 0.57 seconds and produced about 7,090,000 results. We won't list them all here, which means we have to pick the ones we think are the most appropriate. Try the search yourself and make your own list if this one looks wrong. That's our first clue about how society affects the modern perception of Christianity - we pick what we think applies from what others think applies. Notice that we did not go to just one single place where we "know" the list has been narrowed to the "known important" stuff - if there even is such a place. Excluding the ones labeled as ads, here are the first sites from this search:
These are all Christian?
On a personal note, without even visiting all the sites to see what they say on our topic, there is a temptation to eliminate some of them for being non-Christian and others for being too "gooey Christian". That alone speaks volumes about what we are trying to do. But, let's follow through and see what we find.
A good start
Starting with Open Bible, we get a list of 100 selected verses from the Bible, not all of which are even on target for describing Christian attributes. They even list "don't burn your children" (Deuteronomy 18:10), which seems to be good Christian advice to parents, if not exactly advice that most of us need (hover mouse over box to see the first 10 on list):
From Open Bible, there are literally 100 verses from the Bible listed as Christian Attributes. Without listing them all, there are such gems as:
Deuteronomy 18:10 ESV
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer
Acts 2:29 ESV
Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
Others include (hover mouse here):
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
1 Peter 3:2
2 When they see your respectful and pure conduct.
1 Peter 3:15
15 But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
1 Cor 13:1-13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 John 5:3
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
1 Peter 3:8-12
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For "Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
To the Church in Sardis
1 To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To the Church in Philadelphia
7 To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars - I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To the Church in Laodicea
14 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
These verses describe Christians as those who do things that many people think that they already do. However, if you go through the verses listed here, you find some characteristic that almost no modern Christians follow. Oh, they all claim to follow them, but compare the verses to their actions:
1 Peter 3:2 - "when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."
Purity and reverence? They defile themselves with things God said not to eat and have no reverence for the only day He made Holy. By their own action, they are neither pure nor reverent.
1 Peter 3:15 - "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"
Based on the previous analysis, if they are not reverent, but still call Christ Lord, how does that fit with Luke 6:46
46"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?
? What reason do they give to Him for their disobedience?
1 John 5:3 - "In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,"
In today's permissive society, almost no modern "Christians" keep all ten of the commandments - and especially not the fourth one.
1 Peter 3:8-12 - 8Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10For,
"Whoever would love life
and see good days
must keep their tongue from evil
and their lips from deceitful speech.
11They must turn from evil and do good;
they must seek peace and pursue it.
12For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
Like-minded? We have one Bible, and literally thousands of different denominations that believe they are the only ones who are saved. Christ has one chruch - the one that follows Him and does what He says. All others are kidding themselves.
Next, on the "good" vs "bad" scale, be "good" (another shotgun approach), Grace Online Library gives us 49 godly character qualities:
From Grace Online Library, we chose a few to compare to the actions of Jesus himself:
They advise us that one of the marks of a good Christian is to be attentive to others:
Attentiveness vs. Unconcern
Showing the worth of a person by giving undivided attention to his words and emotions (Hebrews 2:1)
Let's see. Besides being a total misinterpretation of the words in Hebrews 2:1, how did Jesus and the Apostles do on this one in Matthew 15:21-26
21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly."
23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."
24He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
25The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.
26He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs."
? This does not seem to match the pattern from Grace Online Library.
They also advise us toward deference rather than rudeness:
Deference vs Rudeness.
Limiting my freedom in order not offend the tastes of those whom God has called me to serve (Romans 14:21
21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.
This is the second time the verses they quote have been taken out of context. What has that verse to do with deference or respecting the wishes of others who disrespect God? Do we allow those around us to disrespect God while we show them respect? If so, how then are we to interpret Matthew 23:
1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5"Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called 'Rabbi' by others.
8"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees
13/14"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
(For verse 14, some manuscripts include words similar to Mark 12:40, "40They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.", and Luke 20:47, "47They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.")
15"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
16"Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.' 17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.' 19You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.
23"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
29"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
33"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
37"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' "
Here, Jesus fairly ripped into the Pharisees for hypocrisy and leading others astray. Hardly a deferential or passive response to the unGodly actions of someone who did not follow the instructions of The Father.
Today's Christianity seems to be leaning too far toward the idea that each church has it's own way of following God, so the rest of us must respect it. The trouble with that is that so few of them actually follow God's guidelines that our real job should be to show them where they stray from the path, like Jesus did in Matthew 23.
We seem to be getting way off base here even while following the simple task of defining a Christian. Let's sum up what we are seeing and try to identify any progress.
OK, what does society expect a Christian to be?
1. Readers and followers of the Bible - all the sites agree
2. Be one "church" in Christ by emulating Jesus - all the sites agree
3. Obey the words and commands of God - all the sites agree
Summarizing this list into a single thought, we should see that all the churches that agree on this list should be copies or mirror images of each other. Right? Then why are there so many different churches, with some large disagreements in fundamentals, that supposedly all have the same goals of knowing the Bible, emulating Jesus, and obeying God?
In fact, one of the original goals of this "project" was to see how the original Christian fit the expectations of society. In just the few examples above, there seems to be a discrepancy between how most of today's churches see the modern Christian and the way Jesus showed us how to act toward others who claim to be His followers. When one is clearly seeking God's will, He was helpful to their needs. When someone did not seek the will of God, He dressed them down publicly. Do we do that or do we respect the wishes of other who believe differently?
As Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5:12:
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?
We are to judge those who claim to belong to Jesus. Not for the final disposition of a soul, but to help to guide them to the correct path (1 Peter 3:15
15But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
). And we are to do this with gentleness and respect for those truly seeking, not those who are blatantly disobedient.
The modern Christian "mold" is not from the Bible.
Just from these few instances, we can see that Jesus did not fit the commonly defined mold of the modern Christian. While we can certainly find more instances, it seems that the whole "Christian Nice Guy" (click to blue link or see Main menu under Christianity for the discussion page) attitude has hijacked our ability to think for ourselves. We can't think or act outside the box without offending the traditions of the church regarding "how to act like a Christian".
If Jesus wouldn't fall into our cookie-cutter mold because the truth was more important to Him than compliance, what does that tell us? The Bible does tell us how to act, it just does so in a manner that is based on truth and love. That is real love, not the tolerant, eveyone's-opinion-matters, don't-hurt-feelings stuff you hear in today's sermons. For those of you who are trying to get people to open their eyes and see what He is really telling us, hang in there. For the rest of you, remember that the path is narrow and is down to earth. Maybe someday people will pull their collective heads out of the clouds and get that message.
What would a "real" Christian do?
Here is a thought for you. The next time you read the Bible, see if you can tell the difference between the concept of being a "nice guy" and the real actions of the apostles in making sure that the true message gets out first. This should happen while sharing the real meaning of God's grace. You will find that these men did not usually cave on the principles of truth in order to be accepted by their culture. The few times they did, they were chastised by those who saw what they were doing. (see Galatias 2:11-13
11When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
Of course, even Paul messed up with regard to caving to the demands of the "church". He gave a reason, but it came very close to compromising his principles in order to accomplish his mission. (see Acts 16:1-5
1Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek. 2The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.
) The reason he gave was that for Timothy to be accepted as a fellow teacher for Christ to the Jews, he must be circumcised because he was half Jewish - the "important" half, since his mother was Jewish. Otherwise, the Jews would not listen to him. Yet, Paul was one who denied that the Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be saved. Kind of a predicament, huh?
The truth is out there, let's stand our ground and spread it around - even if it's not popular.
In most respects, Paul, though he was a law-abiding
Then Paul made his defense: "I have done nothing wrong against the Jewish law or against the temple or against Caesar." (Acts 25:8)
Jew to the extreme, fought the "church" positions when they conflicted with the truth and commands of God. This is our great commission - to spread the Christian gospel, the love and the truth - as it is given to us in the word instead of the mush we hear from the pulpits today. To soften the message in order to prevent making waves is dangerous, and that message is weakened to the point where everyone's opinions and feelings matter more than the truth.
Disagree? Find an error? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and give us your view.