Practically everybody knows, even folks that aren't Christians, that the Bible in general and Jesus in particular talked a LOT about love. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you,” and “do good to those that hate you!”
There are also many other places in the New Testament, such as Paul's famous treatise about love in 1 Corinthians 13:1...
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (NKJV)
Or how about Paul's conclusion in that same chapter in v. 13,
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (NKJV – Emphasis mine).
The point of course is that there are heaps of places in the Bible that command Christians to love, but to my knowledge, there are no places in the Bible that command Christians to be jerks.
And yet, there are so many Christians who are just plain mean. Why? Why are Christians so mean? If they are really Christians, and truly following in the footsteps of Jesus, shouldn't all Christians at least try to be nice?
A little confession is in order.
I used to be mean. Real mean. I don't think I started out that way, but the more I painted myself into my little truth corner, the meaner I seemed to get. I was one of those pastors who has to be right about everything. Like the Pharisees that Jesus faced off with, I was self-righteous. Being right about “the truth” was the most important thing to me. I tolerated most people, but I really didn't like them, especially if I thought they were wrong! You can read more about my story in this post - One Year in the Catholic Church.
But praise God, I've been reformed from being Reformed (Reformed people – i.e. Calivinsts can be some of the meanest people on the planet).
This post however is not about any one group of Christians. If you hang out long enough with any Christians, whether they be Calvinist, Armenian, Pentecostal or Catholic, you will find Christians who are crotchety and cantankerous, dour and sour, disagreeable and downright mean.
Why? Why do so many Christians act so mean?
I think the reason for this is two-fold:
1. We are sinners, just like the rest
If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, and the excuse you are using for not being a Christian is that Christians are so mean, then I would encourage you to consider the direction of your gaze.
If you say, “all Christians are hypocrites and therefore, I don't want to be a Christian,” you are right about one thing. All Christians are indeed hypocrites. At the very least, they can act that way sometimes.
The problem is, Christians are NOT the standard for what it means to be a Christian. Your neighbor is not the standard. Your pastor is not the standard. The Pope is not the standard. Mohamed was not it. Joseph Smith was not it. Not even St. Paul nor St. Peter measure up.
The one and only standard for what it TRULY means to be a Christian is Jesus Christ.
As John G. Mitchell (the founder of Multnomah Bible College) used to say,
“You can find fault with the Christian, but can you find fault with the Savior?”
You can't. Because Jesus is BOTH truly God and truly man, ONLY Jesus can show us what it truly means to be a Christian. Jesus was the Christ (literally the Messiah). Christians were called Christians because they were disciples, or followers of Christ.
And because Jesus is God Himself (in the flesh), only Jesus can show us the perfect balance between truth and love.
He can tell us the truth and He can even be kind of hard sometimes, but He is hard like a good parent is hard. Like His Father in heaven, He tells you what is right and what is wrong, what to do and what not to do, how to live and how not to live... not because He is mean, but just the opposite. Because HE LOVES YOU! He actually, really, really DESIRES for you to be saved and to come to a true knowledge of Him. He wants you to be forgiven of your sins against Him and to live with Him in perfect harmony and peace forever and ever. What Father wouldn't want that?
2. We really want to know the truth, so we sometimes put the cart before the horse
As Christians, we want to know the truth too. The problem is (see rule number 1 – because we are sinners), we sometimes put truth above people.
The Bible does tell us to “Speak the truth!” but here is how Paul puts it in Ephesians 4:15-16,
“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love" (NASB - Emphasis mine)
Notice how Paul does NOT ignore the truth. But when he talks about truth, he starts with love and he ends with love.
In fact, the purpose of the truth is not just head knowledge, it is heart knowledge. It is that we would be built up in the truth, IN LOVE!
Maybe you are here today looking for love. You have looked for love as the song says, “in all the wrong places.” If you are looking for love from a partner, or in sex, or with a group of friends that will accept you, you are headed down the wrong path. In love, God tells us that path will lead to destruction.
Look to Jesus my friend. He will save you and only He will comfort you and give you everything you need to live in His image and according to His likeness.
I beg of you also, don't rule out every Christian because you think they are mean. Not all Christians are mean (at least not all of the time). Christians are flawed (just like you). But they also know the truth, which is Jesus Himself.
If you are looking for truth, then there is only one way to go.
The author of Hebrews in 12:1-2 tells us thus:
“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NKJV – Emphasis mine).