I’ve heard it at least a hundred times before and each time it saddens me greatly. One reason a lady gave me for rejecting a life of faith was that she has known many non-Christians who behave better than Christians. There are variations on her reasoning. Some argue that Christians are judgmental or narrow-minded, or they are less caring than some group of unbelievers they have encountered. After all, why worry about God when you can be better without him.
Maybe you have thought this way yourself. Perhaps you understand the tension when you see someone who claims to know Jesus is acting in an ungodly way. I am here to encourage you to view Christians with grace and love even when they seem undeserving. Here are seven reasons I give an exceeding amount of grace to the people who claim to know God.
1. God calls sinners to be his family. Many of the people I know had to hit rock bottom before they came to Jesus. Some of them were incredibly flawed people with actions that would embarrass your mother. In their darkest hour Jesus reached out to them, and they responded. Jesus emphasized it is the sick who need him as the great physician. Christians are not perfect people, just forgiven.
2. Christians are not saved by good works. If you don’t follow Jesus, then it is likely you are trying to live in such a way that your good life will get you into heaven. It doesn’t work, but non-Christians can be very well-behaved because they think that will get them into eternity.
3. God’s word tells me to live with grace because I am saved by grace. Paul says it directly, and Jesus tells parables about how people who have been shown grace should then extend it to others. We forgive because we are forgiven.
4. I know how messed up I am. I will never throw rocks at other believers because I have sins with which I am struggling. Sure, I might be proud of the few areas that I don’t struggle, but if I am totally honest, I am a mess and should not judge anyone harshly.
5. Frequently, I have no context of understanding. When you hear someone say or do something ungodly, it is easy to be mad about what they just did. The problem is that possibly their behavior was an improvement. One example I know is a guy who struggles with cussing. It can be embarrassing, but he has come a long way since his life of sex, drugs, and alcohol. Many times, I am saddened by how far you need to go when I don’t realize how far you have come.
6. Imposters Exist. Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who planted wheat, and an enemy planted weeds right among it. They looked similar, and the workers are advised not to separate them till the harvest. For whatever reason, maybe approval, or status, or power or money, some people claim to know Jesus that do not. He reminds us that they will be separated at the judgment. God knows who are his and he will handle the bad seeds and weeds in his time.
7. Transformation is slow. Just because someone says Jesus saved them; does not mean they are sanctified yet. Sometimes it takes years for people to change. Faith is a day by day journey, and each step is essential. Everyone is at a different place on their journey, and I simply may be farther along than some people.
Every week I encounter people who claim to be Christians who both embarrass me and encourage me. Some are a shining example of faith and others are angels who seem to have broken halos. While it can be frustrating at times, I am coming to terms with it, and I am learning to overflow with grace to everyone, not just those who appear better than others.