What is it that makes such a huge number of Christians so repulsive? Far too many Christians are mean, harsh, judgmental, and condemning to those around them. They can be downright cruel and come across heartless sometimes.
It’s one thing for the message they carry to offend people. Unfortunately far too often the message of God’s love and acceptance of mankind gets completely lost in condemning things they say and do.
What makes people who follow Jesus like that?
I think I know. I was a bit like that myself. Or at least I was heading down that path. The problem, as I see it, is that folks get out of balance. Let me explain.
Spirit and Truth
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”— John 4:24
Far too many believers are out of balance in their Christian walk. As I explained in that previous post there is a ditch on either side of the road there.
People who overemphasize the spirit side of things and neglect the truth can end up in all kinds of cookooluna weirdness that is completely unscriptural.
All Truth and No Spirit
Unfortunately there is huge portion of Christianity that has gone off into the other ditch. These folks are all truth and no spirit. They have a tendency to completely discount the supernatural in any form from being a legitimate part of a believer’s life. They say that miracles passed away with the Apostles (cessationism).
Folks who are out of balance on the truth side tend to look at the behavioral boundaries in scripture and apply rules to themselves so they stay inside the boundaries.
It seems like common sense. If I don’t want to do something then I should make a rule to keep myself well on this side of the boundary line so I don’t get into trouble, right?
Listen to what Paul had to say about that.
Rules Won’t Control Our Flesh
These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.— Colossians 2:23
Paul says that having rules is useless for restraining our fleshly desires. Creating rules seems like a good idea to our natural understanding. But it doesn’t matter whether these rules are self imposed or imposed on us from the outside. They won’t do the job.
When folks build rules for themselves they then have a natural tendency to extend those rules to others. They end up fixating on people’s behavior, which can make these folks a bit controlling, to say the least.
Rules Drain Life
Unfortunately it’s worse than that. Not only is being rule driven useless for restraining our fleshly impulses, but it actually drains life from us.
Paul is very careful to say that he is not taking anything away from the glory of the Old Testament law. He’s just making a point that our new life in the Spirit though Christ is so incredibly much better by comparison.
In the process he explains that trying to be holy by keeping rules completely sucks the life from us. It has the complete opposite effect from what Jesus stated his purpose was – giving us an abundant life.
Denying God’s Power
In the beginning of 2 Timothy chapter 3 Paul warns us that in the last days there will be perilous times, sort of like we’re seeing now. He lists a whole bunch of ungodly attributes that people will have at that time and finishes that list with this:
having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!— 2 Timothy 3:5
I know it seems pretty harsh, but Paul flat out says that we should avoid people who deny the power of God is still at work today.
Power in the Spirit
If there is one word that describes where many Christians live today (and where I was for so many, many years) it is powerless. Yet even a casual reading of the book of Acts reveals believers demonstrating the power of God all over the place in some pretty amazingly miraculous ways.
Paul said this.
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.— 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
Paul was incredibly well educated. Yet instead of relying on that education to persuade people he chose to simplify his message and trust the Spirit of God demonstrating God’s power through him to persuade people of the truth he presented.
Sadly today a great many Christians act like they can argue people into the Kingdom of God. Instead of demonstrating the Spirit and power they are trying to persuade people into the Kingdom with their words of human wisdom. That approach perpetuates a pattern of people denying the power of God.
Not only that, but it is ineffective too. And when it doesn’t work, people keep dialing up the rhetoric to compensate for its lack of effectiveness. When that happens love flies out the window and is replaced by all sorts of repulsive stuff.
Far, far too many Christians are trapped and afraid of all kinds of things. But Paul told Timothy that we don’t have a spirit fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.
Unfortunately without the power of the Spirit it’s hard to consistently love others. When we’re in the truth ditch, denying the power of the spirit, then far too often we get critical, judgmental, combative, argumentative, and even downright mean.