Christians are known for doing some good things: helping the poor, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, uplifting the downtrodden, fighting for justice and many other feats of love.
But Christians also own a poor reputation for numerous bad habits. Here are six things we must stop doing:
One of the few sins Jesus repeatedly warns His followers not to do is be judgmental.
Despite this, many Christians mistakenly assume that withholding judgment is a form of accepting, condoning and even affirming sin. But judgment from Christians doesn’t determine whether a particular belief, action or lifestyle is either wrong or righteous in the eyes of God.
Predicting the Future
The Gospel message of Christ’s love is often overshadowed by misguided Christians who make predictions and “prophecies” about political affairs, planetary alignments, environmental phenomena, current events, natural disasters, the Antichrist, End Times and the Apocalypse.
When this happens, they inevitably blame a particular person or people group they assume are responsible for God’s wrath, and are actually participating in a sinful form of divination, fear-mongering and dishonesty.
Overcomplicating the Love of Jesus
There comes a point, unfortunately, in the Christian journey when many start to feel bored, unfulfilled and dissatisfied with the unglamorous task of loving others.
It’s very hard work to follow Jesus. It requires sacrifice, humility, service, patience, forgiveness and lots of love. It can be tempting—and much easier—to focus on specific parts of the Bible that don’t require as much endurance, are more flashy, will draw more attention and will instill a greater sense of excitement.
So some of us create a “Christian” platform that becomes our passion. A political agenda, social cause, moral practice or specific theological belief can become central to our faith—overtaking Jesus’ command to love others as yourself.
Thus, we get people who will practically fight to the death over things such as Calvinism, infant baptism and various other causes and doctrines. In and of themselves these things aren’t necessarily bad—everyone has their own convictions about theological issues—but when things are prioritized above Christ’s love, it leads to idolization.
Posting Garbage on Social Media
The clickbait links, offensive political memes, self-righteous condemnations of others, bitter theological rants, and out-of-context Bible excerpts cause more harm than good.
Posting vitriolic, superficial, and offensive content on our Facebook feeds and Twitter accounts doesn’t glorify God.
Before posting anything, stop and think: “Is this true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind?”
This rule has saved me from putting lots of foolish and reactionary content online, and it would do all Christians a world of good to carefully reflect on whether their social commentary is motivated by the love of Christ.
It’s easy to talk about God, argue theological issues and post about faith issues on all sorts of communication platforms. But in order to follow Christ, we are required to actually put our words into actions. As the old adage goes, we must practice what we preach.
Unfortunately, too many Christians talk about Christ’s love without actually being loving. Meanwhile, the rest of world witnesses this obvious contradiction and simply stops listening.
The problems listed above are often caused by being closed-minded—not considering, acknowledging or even dialoguing with the infinite amount of diverse factors that exist beyond our own limited experiences.
When cultural, ethnic, racial, socio-economic, emotional, intellectual, experiential, age-specific and gender-specific factors are ignored, rejected or simply undetected, Christians foolishly cut themselves off from a vast resource of wisdom and insight.
In the same way, some believers continue to dismiss science, education and any form of “outside” information that originates beyond the realm of Christendom. Doing so leads to woeful ignorance, irrelevance and an immoral sense of exclusivism.
Although Christians are guilty of doing all of these things and more, it’s vitally important to differentiate between Christ and Christian culture—they aren’t the same thing.
Ultimately, Jesus is what Christianity is all about, not political platforms, doctrinal disagreements, online religious commentary or ominous prophecies. When all else fails, we must do our best to emulate the life of Christ—loving the world around us to the best of our ability.
An earlier version of this article appeared in July 2015.
Stephen Mattson blogs at stephenjmattson.com and you can follow him on Twitter @mikta.