Why are Christians so unkind to one another and the world? Why do we criticize, degrade, and dismiss? Why do we act like jerks? I have experienced the sting of Christian criticism many times as I’ve posted Scripture or encouragements online. I’m sure you’ve experienced this, too. Christians critique my use of the Bible and correct my theological positions. This happens so frequently on Twitter, there is now a hashtag, #JesusJuked, for Christians who use Scripture as a correction-weapon to tell others how they are wrong. This isn't cool and this isn't classy. Nowhere in the Bible has God given us license to treat each other like jerks.
If we continue to pridefully announce our objections to everything, we will soon lose credibility to speak the truth of the gospel. We will be known for our desire to be right and prove others wrong, instead of being known for our love for one another. The world will not believe our points about God's love when they are delivered with disrespect and pride. Some Christians have been so busy trying to make their argumentative points, they have lost the opportunity to make a difference. It’s that kind of non-Spirit-led, fleshly preaching that turns people from the gospel everyday.
Again, why do we act with such pride and arrogance toward one another?
At the root, we are relying on our own intellect, ego, and proven arguments instead of Christ. We are prideful and think we can get people to see the truth in our own strength. We trust our smarts and wit more than Christ. With our eyes on our selves, we miss others and the gospel.
A Matter of Control
Today, we have access to the Holy Spirit's power to control our lives. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15) and be “the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15) to the world around us. God has commanded us to walk and live by the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23
Scripture tells us "when the Holy Spirit controls our lives," we will have certain characteristics that demonstrate his character. Through our words and actions people should see certain aspects of God’s character: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. If we are speaking out of bitterness, anger, frustration, fear, we are not being controlled by the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are the picture of what it looks like to follow Jesus. If our actions do not display these fruits, we aren’t being controlled by the Spirit.
We often get confused into thinking our frustrations and bitterness are actually righteous obedience. The reality is, however, the righteous acts are those of peace, patience, and kindness.When we aren't patient with our unbelieving neighbor and his journey with faith, we are not living by the Spirit. When we lose our temper when our co-worker asks another hard question, we are not living by the Spirit. However, when pursue peace among those quarreling in the office, we are living by the Spirit. When we sacrifice our Saturday to help our neighbor with their yard-work, we are living by the Spirit. As the Spirit controls our lives, we become a better picture of God's character and the gospel.
We not only need to live Spirit-filled lives, but also Spirit-controlled lives. If you don't know if your actions or words are from the Spirit, ask: Is this statement done out of joy? Done out of love? Done out of gentleness? Done out of kindness? If the answers are no, it’s not of the Spirit.
A Better Way called Grace
Make no mistake. We are called, as Christians, to persuade others towards the gospel. It is one of our main responsibilities. Paul says: “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this too” (2 Corinthians 5:11). We are to share the message of grace.
I’ve been asking myself a question lately, and it has been wrecking my heart: “How is the world supposed to see the grace of God if the people of God are not gracious?”
The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. - Proverbs 16:21
The writer of the proverb is saying: "Gracious words make a person persuasive." It is not our arguments or our tight-doctrine that make us persuasive to people, it is the graciousness, love, and joy that only comes from a Christ-filled and Spirit-controlled life. If we walk in step with the Spirit and exhibit these characteristics to a world thirsty for grace, who wouldn’t want to be around us?
When we are gracious, we introduce a little more of the character of God to the world. God, more than anyone, has the right to banish us, to speak ill of us, to expose our heart’s motives, to reveal how wrong we are, and yet God is gracious. He doesn’t critique, jab, or JesusJuke his children.
The gospel shows us that God is not running after us to smite us, but to save us. "God so loved the world,” and “God did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17). God lavishes us with grace.
The gospel is not our work, our rules, or our religious structure. It’s the news that Christ has come, died, and rose again for the sake of us sinners. God wants to reconcile people to himself and he’s given everything in His Son to reconcile people to himself. God has done it all for us and that is grace. That’s the gospel the world needs to hear. It’s this simple proclamation and the hearing of this good news that transforms the human heart.
This gospel preached graciously does something profound to the human heart. When we talk about who Jesus was, and what He did, and His great love and gracious covering for our sin - God takes it and drives it supernaturally into the human heart, and the Holy Spirit draws people into faith in Christ. As we graciously share this story of Jesus, the graciousness of God is evident and draws people to the grace of Christ that can save them. When we pridefully argue our points, the message of grace is lost.
Matt and Michelle Brown are evangelists and founders of Think Eternity, an evangelistic nonprofit. Matt is the author of several books, including Revolutionaries: Men and Women in Every Century Who Advanced Christianity and a frequent blogger. You can connect with them on twitter@evangelistmatt and @Thinke. Matt also wrote the article: Evangelism Has Become a Dirty Word.
Read more on making sharing the gospel with grace in Jonathan Dodson's book, Unbelievable Gospel: How to Share a Gospel Worth Believing