Christians Behaving Badly

Lindsey Jodts, Group Life Pastor, South Barrington | July 17, 2023

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. 

Jude 3-4

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”

Matthew 15:8-9

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

In a world where contentiousness runs high, being “right” seems to be the most important thing. It shows up everywhere—in my morning podcasts, on social media, even in the supposed witticism of a stranger’s t-shirt. 

When our human inclination is often to win or prove ourselves by being “right,” it assumes that when we are right, the other person, situation, or circumstance is wrong. We place value on ourselves as above or better than those to whom we have proven our “rightness,” and seek to diminish the other through words, actions, or shame. 

This is not to say there are no things or circumstances that exist in the world that are “right” or “wrong”—the prophets consistently name injustice and seek rightness in the eyes of God. Where we are mistaken, however, is when we think we are the arbiters of rightness in the world. Even more  when we do so at any cost. 

Jude 3-4 warns the early church that individuals within the church were acting in ungodly ways, threatening the health and reputation of the church by believing they can act however they want because they claim membership in the church. These individuals were acting out of their own moral compass, making the (false) claim and assumption that they would be forgiven just because they were part of a Christian community. 

When we declare the name of Jesus one moment and then seek to assert our dominance in another, how are we living any differently from those Jude is warning the church about? When we say we love Jesus and then declare a group of people as unlovable, how are we living differently than the Pharisees Jesus was so quick to reprimand?

Instead of winning our arguments or declaring our own righteousness before others, Jesus gave one commandment to all his followers: love one another as he loved us. Jesus didn’t ask us to defend him at all costs. Jesus didn’t ask us to condemn others in his name. This is not how the world will know us, and it certainly isn’t how the world will know him. 

In his own words, “they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Next Steps 

Spend time today in prayer meditating on the passage from Psalm 139: “Search me O God, and know my heart.” Ask Jesus to uncover anything that needs redemption and where your heart can be transformed to love more like him.