During my first marriage, my ex-husband’s grandmother, the Queen of Proper who never allowed a speck of dust to settle in her house, would regularly and without fail remove a folded white glove from her pristinely pressed slacks’ pocket during each and every visit to her daughter’s home.
My ex-mother-in-law would cringe at each of these visits, which always occurred after she had taken a solid week off work to clean the already sterile museum that was the house. The Queen would insert her hand into the white glove and, with her index finger out, would wipe the tops of door jambs and cupboards – even the attic access door trim in the ceiling would not fail to be scrutinized. No matter how much my ex-MIL would clean, the Queen would, without fail, show her a smudge of dust that found its way onto the gloved finger, and then chide her daughter for her sloppiness.
When the Queen showed up at my door to celebrate my second son’s first birthday, I met her at the threshold, and point blank told her that if the White Glove came out of her pocket, it would no doubt find a treasure-trove of dust and maybe even a speck of dirt. I let her know that I was in the business of rearing two little boys and not maintaining an outlet for her meanness. And that is what it was: meanness. The act of making her daughter and all in the household stress out for her prideful gloved arrogance was just plain mean.
Why are people mean? Is it because of family origins, circumstances in the mean person’s life, or is some meanness gene written into their DNA? Is it because of a lack of religious upbringing or faith in God? Or is it despite of religious upbringing or faith in God?
Christians claim to be many religious buzzwords: reborn, forgiven, saved, changed. If these words hold true, why do some Christians seem to either forget their salvation or don’t live it? Here’s the question: why are some Christians mean?
These are observations, and just observations with as much objectivity as my journalism training will allow: a person who identifies as being Christian, yet being unwilling to forgive someone as Christ has forgiven them; or, a person who says he is a Christian, yet refuses to help someone in need; or, a person who identifies as being Buddhist who would give the shirt off his back to help someone yet his Christian neighbor’s help comes with qualifying judgement.
Could it be that in the busyness of life, Christians become project managers instead of seeing the person behind the project? Luke 10:38-42 relates the story of Mary and Martha, two sisters who frequently hosted Jesus and His disciples in their home. Martha was busy, no doubt her Type A personality thrown into a frenzy of cooking and Pinterest-worthy hospitality; yet her sister Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” In that time and place, the fact that a woman was even in the room with the men sitting and listening to the Teacher was unheard-of.
You can almost hear the frustration as Martha said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
Martha was frustrated. The story ends with Jesus not chiding Mary, but telling Martha that He will not take this moment away from Mary. We don’t hear what happens after this, whether Martha went out back with the sheep and goats to cool off, or sat down to hear what Jesus was saying.
Martha was frustrated, and in her frustration she passive-aggressively told Jesus to tell Mary to get up. Cooking for Jesus and the disciples was no doubt a lot of work and that was Martha’s ministry, to serve via the kitchen. But in her frustration, she wanted to take something away that was very dear to Mary – and Jesus. We need to remember in our ministries to realize some have spiritual gifts that we do not, and Jesus can use each of us according to the gifts He provides. We cannot open our hearts to meanness with another brother and sister in Christ while serving Him. To do this is to negate what we’re doing.
Have you ever met someone that blamed a moment of meanness on their DNA? “Oh, I’m a [insert family name here], that’s who we are.” To be a Christian is to be adopted into the family of God; to be a Christian is to repent of sin – that is, to turn from it. To say that you’re a Christian but are still mean based on genetics or family heritage is to say your God is smaller than the god your family has become to you.
Becoming a Christian takes one thing, based solely on the Cross of Christ: forgiveness through Jesus Christ. This is “getting saved.” Living the Christian life takes surrendering to God and dying to self. It is refusing to allow the excuse of how one was reared to interfere in living for Christ. It is working to not be mean.
What does it mean to not be mean? James 2:14-18 states, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
James is not saying works get you saved; on the contrary, he is saying that someone who truly has a repented life in Christ Jesus will be markedly different. They will serve Jesus by serving others without reservation or judgement. They won’t offer to put a name on the prayer request list without offering to help the person behind the name too. Christians should not just talk the talk, but walk the walk, as James said: “I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
How can a mean Christian be nice? Remembering Who you serve. Remembering that Jesus is watching. Remembering that we are the only Bible some people ever read and therefore, asking yourself does what the world reads in you dovetail what is in Scripture? Are you living a surrendered yet victorious life in Christ Jesus, or swallowed up by the circumstances of life, family heritage, and genetics?
It is time we as Christians put away the gloved fingers of judgement, and put on the work gloves of service.
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