When Christians Behave Badly

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The Christian aim is to be kind, good, loving and supportive. But Christians are only mortal and not immune to human emotions that can cause them to crack under pressure, behaving badly despite knowing better. Here’s why.

The goal of a Christian

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

–Galatians 5:22-23

In Galatians Chapter 5, the apostle Paul talks about living by the spirit of Jesus Christ, which defines the essence of being a Christian.

“Fruit” refers to our works. The “fruit of the spirit” means that our nature, and thus our behavior, naturally grows out of our inner spirit in the result that comes forth is our works. A Christian spirit is shaped by Christian morality. Therefore, the above attributes, when applied, result in works of which “against such things there is no law.” In other words, works which are devoid of sin.

In the above list, St. Paul lists some of the attributes that define the Christian spirit. Love, of course, is first and foremost.

On defining love, distinguished Christian theologian Charles Ellicott (1819-1905) points to this passage from Corinthians…

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:7

The second virtue the apostle Paul lists in Galatians 5 is joy, which Ellicott says goes deeper than being cheerful and “is rather the unfailing brightness and equanimity which proceeds from calm and settled principles animated by the Divine Spirit itself.” Ellicott also highlights faithfulness as, not related faith in terms of belief in God, but rather that of “trustworthiness in dealing with” fellow human beings.

Why Christians behave badly

Taking Galatians 5:22 above as a guidepost, let’s consider reasons that cause Christians to behave in ways that don’t follow St. Paul’s list of “the fruit of the spirit” and sometimes act in a manner that leans more towards “the works of the flesh.”

1. Christians under stress

Being a Christian doesn’t save you from the pressures of this world. Everyone has a breaking point. Life’s stresses can push a Christian to their limits. It can be any number of things such as an illness, a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, emotional illness, financial challenges, or extreme disappointment to name a few.

We all behave differently under stress. Some people handle it better than others – Christian or not. Under these trying circumstances, some people can behave in ways they normally would not. Some people get angry. Christians who get angry at may become angry at God or even lose their faith.

The book of Job is a prime example and part of the Bible that every Christian should read to learn the ultimate lesson in dealing with the worst adversity imaginable and struggling, then finally succeeding in maintaining faith in God.

2. Unclear understanding of what it means to be a Christian

Believe it or not, there are Christians who may not be familiar with Galatians 5:22 and truly do not understand what constitutes a Christian. There are some people who are under the assumption that all they need to do is believe in Jesus Christ and they are saved. They do not consider their behavior in the equation. I feel if they just show up to church on Sunday and have faith, that’s all they need to do. They don’t have an example to measure their behavior by, are even if they do, they disregard it.

3. Saved by Jesus, so actions don’t matter

Some people believe because of their faith and baptism, they are saved by the blood of Jesus – no matter what they do. They believe that as long as they have faith in Christ, even if they do some bad things, they will ultimately be forgiven for any sins they commit. They don’t consider that their works will also come into account.

Jesus said:

“Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come into the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

– John 3:20-21

Jesus points out that all sin and errors will not be hidden from judgment. It will be part of the truth that defines one’s lifework. And is not just our actions, but our thoughts’s, too. These will all be part of Christ’s final judgment upon each and every human being.

4. Christian in name only

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

–1 John 1:8

Perhaps saddest of all, are those who are Christians in name only. The people who view being a Christian as some type of social status. Or they may call themselves a Christian because they grew up in a Christian home, even though they believe in the faith very little or not at all. They call themselves a Christian because it is a family tradition. But God searches the heart and nothing can be hidden. Either the Holy Spirit shines and you are it does not. The absence of Christ’s light will be readily apparent on judgment day.

5. Christians are fallible like all humans

Lastly, all humans are fallible. Everyone makes mistakes, even Christians. Every human is a sinner, even those who call themselves Christians. Everyone makes mistakes and will continue to do so throughout their lives.

The Bible states:

“All have turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

–Psalm 53:3

“As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;.”

–Romans 3:10

What is the answer?

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”

–Romans 3:23

The answer is that because sin exists in every human being – every human being needs a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

–John 3:16