By: Elizabeth Lewis
The word “Christian” is used a lot. What does it really mean when we say we are a “Christian” nation? I see mean posts on Facebook…. written by Christians. I hear gossip everywhere… spoken by Christians. A step further, I witness Christian friends (who just left church) ‘hearing’ gossip about someone, believing it as truth, then treat that victim of gossip differently. Shunned. Or worse, the gossip is repeated to others without verification. Reputations tarnished. Hurt feelings. Friendships broken. All to find out everyone is believing something that isn’t even true….. spoken and spread by Christians.
I see Christians taking sides politically – bashing different opinions than our own. I’ve seen people unfriending those who actually think differently than they….believing your side is right and theirs is wrong. I see sexual infidelity (both in and outside of marriages) – over half of America is divorced. Then lots of bashing language around someone they used to love so much. I see hate crimes, prejudice, judgments about anyone but ourselves. Yes, all done by “Christians.” I could go on and I know you also have your own list of the mean things “Christians” do and say… you might see yourself in this list… I’ve been guilty of a few listed here (gossip), myself. It’s easy to get caught up in gossip. Where is Jesus in these moments? Why do we so quickly forget the way we are asked (by God) to respond?
Yes, we all fall short and sin… daily. Yes, we all need grace… but do we just keep going to church on Sunday and then keep repeating the same sins over and over again? We think that just because God will give us grace, (and He will), that gives us permission to act and speak as mean as we want. We ARE granted grace, but there ARE consequences to our behaviors. How can we keep each other more accountable?
Because this blog is about being MEAN…. not all the other sins out there…. wouldn’t you agree that we ALL have the ability to be kind or mean? No matter our age? Do you wonder, why can’t everyone just be kind? I can expect a 3rd grader (the age I used to teach) to not always be kind but the older we get, aren’t we supposed to get better at being kind and not worse? Even 1st graders are taught kindness….didn’t you teach your kids to be kind? Kids know how to be mean or kind, too, and can make the same choices we do. But we, as adults, have experience and wisdom!
The Bible says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col. 3:12-14).
My favorite is 1 Corinthians 13 the “love” chapter. Love is patient, kind, not rude or easily angered or jealous….always protects…
My next favorite is the Fruit of the Spirit… Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Gary Thomas said, “If you are arrogant, harsh, impatient, unkind, and judgmental instead of compassionate, patient and gentle, you are not acting as one of “God’s chosen people” regardless of how many graduate degrees you have, how many Bible verses you know, how many books you have published, how big your church, organization, or social media impact is or even how well you control yourself sexually. It doesn’t even matter if you are “right” on the issue if you are acting in a wrong manner. You’re adding to the overall problem rather than being part of the solution.”
“One of the greatest temptations to be mean, of course, is when we catch someone else in a sin. We’ve all read of the Pharisees who caught a woman in the act of adultery (obviously and discriminatorily letting the man go!) and demanded she be publicly shamed, which Jesus refused to do. The Pharisees were right in thinking adultery is wrong; they were wrong in that they were acting in a mean instead of a redemptive way. This mob mentality currently has the Internet on its side, so public shaming can now be national and even international.”
So, you might be asking, “Will we learn? What can we do about this? How can we raise the bar for ourselves AND for our children who are observing every move we make?” Those of us who call ourselves Christians, how can we all quit being so mean? (You realize we are all selectively mean… since we all have the choice to be kind or mean. Why not choose to be kind? Every time?)
You might say, “Well she just makes me so mad. I want her to feel as bad as I do so I lash out in anger.” Is that what a 30+ person reacts or a 1st grader? Or you might say, “Our national leaders have no problem being mean, especially in an election. No wonder our nation is mean. It’s everywhere.” This is an excuse and turns us into victims. Just because someone in leadership is being mean, does not give you permission to follow suit. In fact, as a Christian, we are to be held to a higher standard. YOU be the leader and respond kindly…. THAT is leadership.
Wisdom HAS to help us respond differently. Right? No one can MAKE you mad. They might say something that isn’t nice but why react with hate and meanness? The cycle just won’t stop, if you do. If you respond with kindness, won’t they soften? They likely will! If you’re mean to them, they’ll, in turn, be mean back. (Didn’t we all learn this in kindergarten? Didn’t we teach this to our children?) Did your grandma ever teach you to “Kill them with kindness?” We need to realize, if they speak hateful words, it’s because they hate themselves. If they’re jealous of you, it’s because they’re filled with jealousy that you have something they don’t have (a spouse/GF/BF, job, money, privileges, etc). If they hurt you, it’s because they’re hurt inside themselves. If they respond with love, it’s because they love themselves. Be the example of LOVE! Respond with LOVE! (No, this is not always easier; although it CAN be if you do it over and over again).
Well, we all know we can’t change everyone else but we CAN change our own reactions and ways of behaving. Through those reactions, people will see the RIGHT way to be and perhaps react the same way. They will see Jesus in you and inadvertently, also be like Jesus, whether they know it or not. It will just feel like the correct way to respond.
So here are some examples you can try:
- “Did you hear ____ about Josie? She thinks she’s so _____. She always _____.” Your response: I did not hear that and I don’t want to make a judgment until I talk to Josie myself to confirm that is even true. OR “I did not hear that and I don’t think we should talk about her without her here to defend herself.” OR “Did you talk to Josie about this or did you just hear it from someone else?” Even if you think you SAW a certain behavior, it’s still a good idea to ask before making a judgment.
- On a heated political post on Facebook, you click like and make a strong comment bashing the opposing side. Instead, your response could be…. No ‘like’ button with no comment. Why? Well, your opinion isn’t going to change the other side. Just like they can’t change your mind about your side. Instead say, “We both have our strong political views… we likely should just hope and pray for the best solutions for all Americans.” OR “We disagree politically and this is likely a better in person conversation.”
- “Did you hear that Helen is pregnant? She’s only 18 and her father is even a preacher! I bet they are freaking out!” A better response… “I did not know. I think I’ll reach out to her and see if there is anything I can do to help support her upcoming challenge. Sounds like she’s going to need lots of support.”
I know you get the idea… it’s easy to read these and even agree with them, but when it comes to actually doing these, actually saying the right thing, it’s harder than it seems. But once you do it, each time will get easier AND maybe other “Christian’s” will get to see a better example of how a “Christian” is to respond.
So, how will you proceed? How will you spread more love and cut down the mean? Comment below if you have more good ideas from which we can all benefit! I’m going to get better at holding my tongue and be ‘aware’ when I’m entering into a conversation that sounds like gossip. My response if my responsibility!