Christian Living

Christians Aren’t Allowed to Be Jerks

Author Greg Koukl Published on 07/05/2013

Unpleasant, hostile, conniving, catty, arrogant, complainer, gossip—Christians with traits like these bring discredit not just on themselves, but also the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

One of my callers had a valid question. He asked if there is such a thing as mean-spirited Christians. My answer was, yes, Christians do all kinds of bad things, unfortunately.

I have to confess to you, I get discouraged when I hear of Christians being unpleasant. On the one hand, it’s understandable when Christians trip up and fall into error. I never get down on people who are seeking to live a Christian life and fail, even when they fail consistently in a difficult area. They’re working on it.

I get discouraged when I hear of Christians being unpleasant.

To me it’s an entirely different thing, though, when believers have consistent behavior patterns that are deeply offensive to God.

I just heard of a former friend of mine who’s been living with his girlfriend. (By the way, if you’re a non-Christian, I don’t expect you to understand this. I can appreciate that this is silliness to you.) Part of being a Christian means you play by certain rules, because being a Christian means you’re a follower of Jesus Christ. He leads; you follow. What He says, you do. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, at least. That’s the point of referring to Jesus as “Lord.”

When I found out my friend had been with this girl for ten years, I asked a mutual acquaintance, “Why didn’t he get married?” He said, “Because he’s got all the pleasures of being married without having to walk down the aisle. They’ve been living together for five or six years. They know it’s wrong, but they still do it.”

I thought, “What does it mean for them to call Jesus ‘Lord’ if they’re fully content to continue living in complete defiance of His desires?”

“But I love Jesus. I’m a Christian. Hallelujah, praise the Lord! Saved by grace, happy condition; sin as you please because there’s remission!”

Jesus called that hypocrisy.

Frankly, I don’t actually run into many Christians who are living together. Usually, Evangelicals who tolerate sin aren’t quite so blatant. The ones I run into more frequently are like the ones my caller mentioned, people who are just unpleasant or mean-spirited. I have a hard time with that.

I don’t understand how a Christian can talk about love, then feel he has complete liberty to be nasty, unpleasant, conniving or catty—a jerk, to put it simply.

This happens with Christian leaders more often than I’d like to admit. I don’t understand how people who say they love Jesus can get their backs up so quickly and be so consistently hostile to others. You know them, and so do I. “Oh yeah, what’s-his-name. What a jerk. Don’t sit next to him at worship. What’s he even doing in church anyway? And he’s in leadership!”

Friends, we don’t have the liberty to be jerks. It’s not allowed. We don’t have the liberty to be mean-spirited. It’s not allowed.

“Oh, now you’re putting me under the law.”

No I’m not. I’m not talking here about your justification. A Christian is justified by Jesus alone, not his own efforts. That’s a given. I’m actually presuming you’re already justified (though, if you keep living in rebellion to Christ, that’s a good reason to doubt it).

Justification is not the issue. Simple obedience is. Paul writes, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11–12).

A godly person is alert to the details of his conduct so he can be more like Christ.

This is why I so appreciated the response of a friend this morning when I pointed out what I thought might be a small, character flaw developing in his life. He essentially said, “Thank you.”

Now that’s a godly person. A godly person is alert to the details of his conduct so he can be more like Christ. Contrast that with the so-called Christian who says, “Leave me alone. Get off my back. Don’t criticize. Who are you to judge?” That’s the spirit of the world, not the spirit of Christ.

It’s the job of those in the Body of Christ—leaders, peers, friends—to give feedback so that each of us might live righteously. Why? For one, because our lives are laid bare before the world. Others are watching. That’s why Peter writes, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles.” Why? “So that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

Peter then adds, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.... For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:13, 15).

What happens instead? We have Christians who are nasty and offensive. They exercise their “right” to be jerks and bring discredit not just on themselves—which they do consistently—but also on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

You ought to thank people for correcting you. They’re telling you something about yourself that others see and that is destructive in your own life.

You know, if you’re one these people, guess what. Everybody sees it. Guess what else. People don’t like you. Did you ever think about that? You want to be liked, but if you’re nasty, and arrogant, if you’re a complainer and a gossip, people don’t like that. And if you consistently do what people don’t like, they won’t like you.

If you want to be liked, why don’t you try being more likable? What’s so hard about that? Not only will others see it and glorify God, but others will see it and like you more. Your testimony will be stronger. More than that, you’ll feel a lot better.

The only way that can happen, though, is if you’re willing to put the defenses down and not get your back up when someone corrects you. You ought to thank people for correcting you. They’re telling you something about yourself that others see and that is destructive in your own life. It makes other people dislike you, and hurts the cause of the Gospel.

They tell you these things for your good. If they’re not telling you, then I don’t think they love you that much. Or maybe they’re too scared of your reaction. Maybe they think you’ll bite their heads off if they were honest. Bad sign.