"Answering Objections" part 12
God Loves You; Everyone Else Thinks You're a Jerk
by Greg Hanson

How do I know I can trust the Bible?
Hasn’t it been corrupted and manipulated through the centuries?
Besides, weren’t there other books that were suppressed by the Church? And aren’t they just as valid?
Why should even I believe in God, anyway? Isn’t it all just a matter of faith? I mean, there’s no reasonable evidence for the existence of God, is there?
Look at the evil in the world. How do you reconcile that with the existence of an all-powerful all-loving God?
How about Jesus? Was He a real person? Didn’t Christian beliefs about Jesus just come out of pagan mythology?
Are there documents outside of the Bible that talk about Jesus and support Christianity?

Those are the kinds of questions that we’ve looked at over the past several weeks. We’ve actually covered a lot of territory. If you’ve been with us through it all, then you’re probably amazed at how much support there really is for the Christian faith. If you missed anything, you can catch up by reading the messages on our website. As we’ve said over and over again, we don’t have a blind faith; it’s a reasonable faith. A reasonable faith doesn’t close its eyes to the evidence; it looks at the evidence, sees where it points, and then goes in that direction.

Today, we’re shifting our focus just a bit. Instead of focusing on some of those big theological questions regarding God and the Church and the Bible and Theology, we’re going to narrow in on the objections that people might have about you and me... about Christians.

Gandhi is reported to have said to a Christian missionary;

“I don’t reject Christ. I love Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike Christ. If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”
~ Mohandas Gandhi

You know what? Gandhi’s not alone in that opinion. There are a lot of people in the world today who have been hurt by Christians and have become disillusioned... who have written off God because of the attitudes, words, and actions of a few of His supposed followers.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in Tim Hortons—yes, Tim Hortons—talking with a friend of mine. I’ve known this guy for several years now. He’s an elderly man, and I often run into him and his wife and we visit over a coffee.

I’ve invited this friend of mine to several different events or services here at Sunrise, and he’s always turned me down. His wife came once, but he never has. His usual response has been that the walls would collapse if he ever entered a church. So I’ve had great fun telling him we’re taking care of that with the renovations at the BIS.

This has gone on for years, and I’ve never understood why he’s been so opposed to the Church. Until just a few weeks ago when I finally found out. It was because of this exact thing that Gandhi was talking about: Christians.

Apparently, years ago this friend of mine was living in a town where there were two churches and two pastors who were bitter enemies. They would bad-mouth each other, publicly berate each other, and one day the pastors actually came to blows. At that point, my friend wrote off anything having to do with God and the Church. (Just so you know, the only real fights I’ve ever been in were with my brother while we were growing up and I always lost. He’s 6’4” now, so I don’t think my odds have improved.)

What a shame, though... that people claiming to be followers of Jesus would behave in such a way that they would push people away from Jesus instead of pointing them towards Him.

God loves you; everyone else things you’re a jerk. That’s the warm-and-fuzzy theme of the message this morning. How do Christians sometimes act like jerk? And how should we act instead? And this is important, because the way we act reflects on the One we claim to follow. The more we act like jerks, the more God gets the blame. God shouldn’t have to suffer the blame for our ungodly actions, but He does. If we call ourselves Christians, then we taint His good name and we abuse His name when we act like jerks.

So let’s talk about five different ways that Christians tend to act like jerks...

We Act Like Jerks When...

1. Our actions do not match our talk.

There’s a word for that. It’s called being a hypocrite. When people are hypocritical, they may talk a good talk but their deeds reveal who they really are. Far too many people are “Christians” for an hour on Sunday, but the rest of the time they lie, they cheat, they tear others down... That’s being a hypocrite.

When I was a kid, I attended a Christian Hockey Camp in Moncton operated by Hockey Ministries, which I believe has a presence in 12 countries now. NHL stars like Eric Staal, Mike Fisher, Dan Hamhuis, Mike Gartner, Mark Osborne, and Laurie Boshman have helped out and taught hockey skills to the campers.

Anyway, while I was at this camp I learned a song that contained a perfect description of what it means to be a hypocrite. The song said, “I don’t want to be a hypocrite, always saying never doing it.” You’re a hypocrite when your words do not match your actions.

Hypocritical people really bothered Jesus. In fact, He didn’t mince words with them. He called them out on their hypocrisy. And the hypocrisy that bothered Him the most was the hypocrisy in the people who were religious, especially the religious leaders. Their hypocrisy was turning people away from God. Look at what Jesus said…

Matthew 23:13 (NLT)
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces. You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either.”

So if you’re a hypocrite, God still loves you. Everyone else, though... they think you’re a jerk.

2. We judge and condemn others without mercy.

Besides it being a problem when you’re hypocritical, it’s also a problem with you’re hypercritical... when all you seem to be able to do is find flaws in others. Does that mean you can’t talk with someone and address problem areas? Of course not. But like we’ve been saying all through this series, you’ve got to do it with gentleness and respect.

I’m going to show you one of the most misunderstood passages in the Bible. It’s in the words of Jesus in Matthew 7. See if you recognize these words. Read it with me...

Matthew 7:1 (NLT)
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.”

Does this really mean you can’t judge someone else? That’s what it seems to say, isn’t it? But if you read on, you discover that Jesus seems to say just the opposite. He talks about telling the difference between people who are holy and unholy. He warns against false prophets and describes them as wolves in sheep’s clothing. He talks about judging people by the fruit they produce... by what you see in their lives. In verse 20, he even says  “you can identify people by their actions.” It seems to me, that requires a bit of judging. So let’s read on...

Matthew 7:2-5 (NLT)
“For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

So what’s Jesus saying? He’s saying, “You want to judge? Fine. But be aware that if you are relentless and judge without mercy, you’re going to get the same treatment. If you judge someone based on some little sin in their life while turning a blind eye to the massive sin in your own life, watch out.” And then He gives some advice... “Before you judge someone else, judge yourself first. Face the sins in your own life... deal with them... struggle with them... work them through... and then you just might be able to see clearly enough to understand the struggles others face. Then you’re not going to judge them harshly but compassionately. You’re not going to condemn them; you’re going to help them.”

Jesus was forbidding a self-righteous merciless premature kind of judgment. He teaches instead that we’re only ready to judge after we’ve already been honest enough to judge ourselves and we’ve learned how to show compassion and mercy.

3. We spread gossip.

Christ-followers should not be gossipers. Unfortunately, churches have long held the reputation as a place where gossip flows freely. The worst is when gossip is disguised as a prayer request. You know, “Jennie has a real problem. Let me tell you about it... you know, so you can pray about it.” If you pull stunts like that, God still loves you... but you’re a jerk.

“There is little difference between a dripping knife and juicy gossip, between racing bullets and an abusive tongue. Why? Because they all flow from the same source: a hateful heart. And they all kill.”
~ Bill Hybels

When you have a problem with someone and you talk about that problem with someone who’s not involved and who doesn’t need to become involved, you’re gossiping. If you are spreading private information about another person without their permission, you are gossiping. If you are painting someone in a negative light and needlessly harming their reputation, you are gossiping. Gossip should have no place in the Church.

Have you ever known a verbal arsonist? A gossiper is a verbal arsonist, setting fires with their words and destroying lives.

James 3:5-6a (NLT)
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

4. We act like we are better than others.

When you develop a holier-than-thou kind of attitude, you become obnoxious and you become arrogant. I mean, God still loves you, but everyone else thinks you’re a jerk.

Out of everyone who ever lives, who do you think really had a reason to think they were better than everyone else? Jesus, right? Jesus had a very good reason to think He was better... He really was. He was God in the flesh. But look at what He said...

Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT)
“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

If Jesus Himself refused to become arrogant and treat others as if they were inferior, by what right can we become arrogant? How can we think of ourselves as better than others when the Creator of the Universe stooped down to become a servant?

5. We become oblivious to the needs of those around us.

Lynn and I conducted a Food Drive this week. And as a church we’ve done other Food Drives in the past. You know what I’ve discovered? The richer neighbourhoods are the least generous neighbourhoods. The people who can best afford to help out others don’t do it while people living in poverty are more than willing to give whatever they can. Does that seem right to you?

How does that kind of thing play out in the Church? It plays out when we start to become inwardly focused, when we seek to meet only our own needs, and when we become so immersed even in good, wholesome, Christian things that we forget that there are people with needs that we can meet and who are heading for a godless eternity. Somehow, we’ve confused this kind of spiritual activity with spiritual growth.

Keith Green was kind of a modern-day prophet and a pioneer in Christian music. He died in a plane crash in 1982 when he was only 28 years old. But he left behind a legacy of songs that challenge Christians to get serious about their faith and to live it out in everyday life. One of them—”Asleep In the Light”—contain these lyrics…

He brings people to you door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
“God bless you, be at peace”
And all heaven just weeps
Cause Jesus came to your door
You’ve left him out on the streets
~ Keith Green, Asleep In the Light

Spiritual growth is not about gaining a whole lot of knowledge and winning at Bible trivia games. It’s not even about having perfect attendance at church, although I wouldn’t object if some of you wanted to try. No, spiritual growth is about becoming more like Jesus... loving people like He loves them... caring for them like He cares for them... showing them compassion like He shows compassion. If you want to grow as a Christian, you grow in two ways...

How Do I Grow as a Christian?

•    By getting to know Jesus
•    By becoming more like Jesus

Okay, so if those are five ways you do not want to be described... if those are five ways that Christians sometimes act like jerks... what are the alternatives? How would you rather be described? Think about it like this… what do you want your tombstone to say about you?

You know, I’ve always thought it’d be great for my tombstone to tell people, “Get off of me!” Here are some other interesting messages found on tombstones:

“Here lies my wife, Here let her lie
Now she has peace And so do I!”

“Here lies JOHN D. CUDD, DMD  (Dentist)
Filling his last cavity!”

Tombstone in Round Rock,Texas
“I told you I was sick!”

In a London, England Cemetery
“Here lies Ann Mann Who lived an old maid
But died an old Mann.
Dec. 8, 1767”

Playing with names in a Ruidoso, N.M. Cemetery
“Here lies Johnny Yeast
Pardon me for not rising.”

A marker in Enosburg Falls, Vermont
“Here lies the body of our Anna
Done to death by a banana
It wasn’t the fruit that laid her low
But the skin of the thing that made her go!”

In a Thurmont, Maryland Cemetery
“Here lies an Atheist
All dressed up And no place to go!”

Memory of an accident in a Uniontown, Pennsylvania Cemetery
“Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake
He stepped on the gas instead of the brake.”

On a grave in East Dalhousie Cemetery,
Nova Scotia
“Here lies Ezekial Aikle
Age 102
The Good Die Young.”

“Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York
Born 1903 - Died 1942
Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car
Was on the way down.  It was.”

“Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les No More.”

From a cemetery in Hatfield, Massachusetts
“Here lies as silent clay
Miss Arabella Young.
Who on the 21st of May,
Began to hold her tongue.”

(from http://www.pennyparker2.com/epitaph.html)

Those are kind of fun, but really I hope my tombstone says something about me as a person. Hopefully it will have nothing to say about me living and acting like a jerk, but instead will say I lived like Jesus did. That His character was formed in my by the power of His Spirit. I hope it won’t say anything about me being critical, or judgmental, or gossiping, or arrogant, or self-centred. I hope instead that it would reflect that I lived in Jesus in these kinds of ways…

We Acts Like Jesus When...

1. We live with integrity.

A hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does something else. On the flip side, a person of integrity is someone with a consistency about them. The word “integrity” comes from Old French and has the same root as the word “integer.” An integer is a whole number, like the number one. There’s no decimal, there’s no fraction... it’s a complete number. What you see is what you get. It’s whole and complete, not duplicitous.

So “integrity” comes from Old French. The Greek equivalent is the word “sinceros.” Any guesses what word comes from that? Sincere. That means you’re true, you’re straight forward, there’s nothing hidden, no deception. It was actually a pottery term that was used to describe a pot that was put through the kiln and came out without any cracks. If there were some cracks, they’d patch it up with some wax. That would look fine, but it wouldn’t hold up if you poured a hot liquid into it. On the other hand, if the pot were in perfect condition and didn’t need any patching, it would be called “sinceros,” meaning “without wax.”

For you and me, integrity means that we are of one substance. We are without wax. We are authentic, we are real, we are completely honest, we have nothing to hide. What you see is what you get.

Proverbs 10:9 (NLT)
People with integrity have firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.

“We speak of integrity as a moral value. It means a person is the same on the inside as he claims to be on the outside. There’s no discrepancy between what he says and what he does; between his walk and his talk. Integrity has to do with soundness, completeness, unity and consistency. It means everything about a person is moving in the same direction… Integrity permeates the fabric of a person, rather than just decorating the surface.”
~ Billy Graham

2. We extend compassion and mercy to those who have messed up.

Jesus had no time for people who were so judgmental and hypocritical that they couldn’t or wouldn’t recognize it when they messed up. But for people who knew they had messed up, Jesus had all kinds of compassion and mercy for them. Like in John chapter 8.

John 8:3-11 (NLT)
As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said.
And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Did Jesus judge this woman? Actually, yes. He knew who she was what she had been doing, and so He told her to knock it off. He said, “Go and sin no more.” Certainly He judged her. But did He condemn her? No. Instead, He extended compassion and mercy. He recognized her sinfulness, but offered forgiveness and a fresh start.

When you treat others with compassion and make allowances for faults and extend mercy—even when a wrong has been done to you—you are acting like Jesus.

3. We build others up.

When we gossip, we tear others down. When we encourage, we build other up. In the Bible, Barnabas was a man instrumental in helping Paul right after Paul became a Christ-follower. Barnabas guided Paul, he introduced him to the apostles, and encouraged Paul to grow in his faith. In fact, the name “Barnabas” means “son of encouragement.” Barnabas was an encourager, not a discourager. He built people up; he didn’t tear them down.

Representing Jesus means you watch what you say, you be kind and generous to others, you build people up instead of tearing them down, you absolutely refuse to gossip, you be there when your neighbour’s kid is in the hospital, you do what you can to help when they’re out of work, you help people out in whatever way you can, and you encourage them through the use of your words.

Proverbs 10:21 (NLT)
The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.

Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

4. We exhibit a genuine humility.

We talked earlier about how Jesus came to serve, not to be served. He was humble. And if we’re going to become like Him and act like Him, we’re going to be humble, too.

Colossians 3:12-13 (NLT)
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

5. We proactively seek to serve others.

Since the beginning, Christ-followers have sought to serve others. Jesus Himself set the standard by giving up all His rights and privileges in order to meet our needs of forgiveness and salvation. And His followers continued to serve others. Because we know that true greatness is not about feeding our egos and focusing solely on ourselves; it’s about serving others and meeting needs. Jesus defined this for us…

Matthew 23:11 (NLT)
The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Okay, that’s five ways to act like a jerk, and five ways to act like Jesus. I hope you’ll strive for the latter. I started this morning with a quote from Gandhi. Let me finish with another. He was referring to Christians when he said this…

“To live the gospel is the most effective way... The Gospel will be more powerful when practiced and preached.”
~ Mohondas Gandhi


Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson