Don’t be a jerk. Seems like an odd title for a blog on Christianity, doesn’t it? But the reality is that it’s one of the most important principles of being a Christian. You would think that this would be obvious, but unfortunately it is not. All too often we give a bad name to Christianity, and worse to Christ himself, by our actions towards other people. This is one of the biggest issues that the church faces today.
Many people come to church but never return based on a bad experience they had the first time. Like it or not, we often have only one chance to make an impression on people, and that impression matters. But even more important than that, is how we treat people outside of church. Most of our interactions with sinners are not within the confines of a church building, but in our everyday lives.
This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. What would Jesus do if his food came and was less than satisfactory? Or what would he do if someone cut him off in traffic? These are real questions that must be answered, and I’m pretty sure he would not respond the same way that most of us do. Let me be the first to say that I am not innocent in this matter. I am just as human as anyone else, and just as prone to respond in anger as anyone else.
But what we must understand is that we are supposed to be different. We aren’t allowed to respond the same way that the world responds. In his earthly ministry, Jesus never treated people as they treated him. Instead, he treated them as he wanted to be treated. It may seem hyperbolic, but the truth is that if everyone responded that way the world would be a paradise. And that’s exactly the point of being a Christian. We shouldn’t look at the world as it is now, but rather we should look at the world as Christ wants it to be.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17 the Apostle Paul declares that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” We love to quote that verse, but let’s apply it practically. In essence, Paul is saying that when we are truly in Christ, everything becomes new. Logically that would extend to the way we behave around others, and how we treat other people. This isn’t just about getting a fresh new start, but it’s also about taking that fresh start and living differently. We are saved from the world, and therefore we should act differently than the world.
The Sermon on the Mount provides the path that every Christian should follow. This sermon does not reflect ideal Christianity, but rather actual Christianity in practice. In this sermon Jesus takes some commandments that the Jews were familiar with, and gives the true heart of them. For instance, the Jews were taught to not commit adultery, but Jesus said that we aren’t even supposed to look on a woman to lust after her. Clearly, the Christian is meant to live by a higher standard.
However, it gets worse. The Jews firmly believed in loving one another, but Jesus said that that same love should be extended to their enemies as well. Yes, that included the hated Romans and Samaritans. His argument was that it’s easy for us to love people who act like us and think like us, but it’s much more difficult to love those who misuse and abuse us. But that’s the lonely road that the Christian must take. We live by a higher standard and way of life.
The thing I love the most about Jesus is that he didn’t just preach these things. It would have been very easy for him to tell other people to love their enemies, and not practice that himself. But all that you need to know about Jesus’ love for his enemies is brilliantly displayed on the cross. Jesus didn’t just preach these things, he lived them and he showed others that they could as well. That’s why I believe in Jesus Christ. He commands a higher standard of living, but he also demonstrated that higher standard of living.
Being a jerk is the easy thing to do in this day and age in which we live. It’s easy to lash out against those who don’t think like us and who don’t have the revelation we have. But let’s take the high road, shall we? Let’s make Christianity less about what we say, and more about what we do. Let’s not just claim Christianity, but let’s demonstrate what it is in practice to the world around us. One of my dad’s favorite sayings is “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” And it’s one hundred percent true. We must strive to give a good name to Christianity, and that starts by not being a jerk.