By Joel Ryan, Crosswalk.com
There are countless holidays and traditions celebrated every day around the world. Some, including Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween, are well-known. Others, such as National Bacon Day, Squirrel Appreciation Day, or Kiss a Ginger Day, are more lighthearted and obscure.
While nowhere near as peculiar as, say, National Meatball Day, is World Kindness Day, a day established in 1998 to celebrate and promote good deeds and acts of kindness around the world.
Just turn on the news or browse social media. People seem to be getting more angry, greedy, depressed, and self-centered every day. And every day, the world cries out for exactly what God instructs His followers to generously provide: love, joy, forgiveness, and, yes, even kindness.
Do Christians Model Kindness?
But are Christians listening? More importantly, are they actually modeling this kind of behavior? If Christians have to be reminded to be kind, the world has a serious problem.
Many Christians are exactly who God has called them to be. They are gracious, forgiving, generous, and kind. They are the light of the world and the arms of Jesus wrapped around the broken and broken-hearted. Many, however, are not.
Instead of being a living example of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control the world so desperately needs, many Christians are perceived as the complete opposite: unloving, impatient, judgmental, narrow-minded, grumpy, and mean.
This, of course, isn’t a fair assessment of all Christians. However, even redeemed, Christians can still be mean at times, and in many cases, their reputation for unkindness is deserved.
After everything Christ has done for them, there is no excuse for Christians to be unkind, unforgiving, or judgmental of others. That kind of behavior contradicts the message of the Gospel and the mission of Jesus Christ, and nothing burns bridges or closes doors like a Christian who is unkind or unpleasant to be around.
Kindness Is Often More Attractive than Christians’ Behaviors
Most people (Christians included) would much rather spend time with a kind and gentle non-believer than a Christian who’s a close-minded jerk. Many more will develop a perception of God based on the attitudes and actions of His followers.
When the world looks at the church and members of the body of Christ, what should it see? What does it actually see? Does the world encounter the love and kindness of Jesus Christ, or does it just find more of the same?
Why do so many people call Christians mean? Ask yourself, how many Christians...
- care more about being “right” and proving their point than just being a “light” to the world (Matthew 5:14-16)
- would rather rant and rave on social media than take the time to actually sit and listen to the stories and opinions of others? (James 1:19)
- talk about self-control but have a reputation for getting drunk, sleeping around, or being lazy? (Ephesians 5:15-17)
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Evan Kirby
These are the actions and attitudes that can lead people to call Christians mean just like everyone else. They may not be present in every believer, thank God. But when people encounter little bits of this in every Christian they meet, it has the collective power to shift their perception quickly away from Christians—and maybe even God.
Now we know that Christians will face rejection and encounter persecution just for being Christians, too. Christ warned that “the one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me” (Luke 10:16)
He also said that “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)
Many will reject the Gospel at the thought of surrender. Many will label Christians as mean or judgmental simply because they hold a different worldview or opinion than they do. This is where calling Christians mean or hateful can sometimes be a hasty generalization and unfair misrepresentation.
The Proof Is Always in the Fruit
In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul wrote that the evidence and spiritual export of a life transformed by the love of Jesus Christ is the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This fruit, which comes in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, grows naturally from the heart of Christ’s followers. They should be evident from the way Christians act, speak, think, and interact with others.
This also reaffirms what Jesus told His followers:
- At the Last Supper, He said to His disciples, “a new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
- Jesus also warned Christians to be on the lookout for false prophets, going to far as to compare them to ravenous wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. “You will know them by their fruits,” He said. “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-18).
- “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45)
Jesus made it clear: by our actions, words, and attitudes (our fruit) the world will know we are His. The Fruit of the Spirit is not just the outward sign of inward growth; it is the spiritual guide for how to treat others.
Is Our Fruit Rotten or Does it Bring Life?
What kind of fruit are Christians producing and putting into the world? Is it good fruit, or is it rotten? Does it bring life to others, or does it just smell bad and make people turn away or get sick?
No one likes bad fruit, and if Christians have developed a reputation for being mean or unkind, maybe that’s a sign that the fruit they’re producing isn’t that healthy.
A life that is transformed by the love and grace of God will overflow with love and kindness. A life that is grateful for Christ’s forgiveness will also be quick to forgive.
But as a gardener prunes his garden, so Christians too must examine their spiritual fruit and make adjustments when the fruit is no longer evident or has begun to rot. Thankfully, we know that God does this pruning work for us when we fully surrender our lives to Him (John 15:1-8).
When the world no longer encounters the love of Jesus Christ in the more than two billion Christians living in the world today, we have a serious problem. And when Christians develop a reputation that is contrary to the heart of Jesus or Fruit of the Spirit, that’s probably the first sign that spiritual transformation hasn’t yet taken root—and that changes need to be made.
Joel Ryan is an LA-based children’s and young adult author who teaches writing at Life Pacific University. To him, teens and young adults are the most incredible people on the planet, and he is passionate about fueling their passion for the Lord through story and the arts. In his blog, Perspectives Off the Page, Joel discusses all things writing, the creative process, and what makes movies, comic books and great stories so impactful.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Highwaystarz Photography
Joel Ryan is an LA-based children’s and young adult author who teaches writing at Life Pacific University. Joel is passionate about fueling young people’s passion for the Lord through storytelling and the arts. In his blog, Perspectives Off the Page, he discusses all things writing, the creative process, and what makes movies, comic books, and great stories so impactful.