To be identified with Christ is to embody specific attributes. The New Testament enumerates many of these traits in “virtue lists” found throughout. For instance: 2 Timothy 2:24-25. “The Lord’s servant must be … kind to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, [and] correcting opponents with gentleness. The Christian does not have the option of withholding kindness or opposing others harshly. Kindness and gentleness are mandated by the word.
Of course, we see people claiming the title ‘Christian’ lash out in judgment, villainizing those who disagree with them. Such behavior disregards the New Testament these very Christians would herald as the “word of God.” Those guilty of withholding kindness and gentleness clearly are not actually connected to Jesus, who gently welcomed the tax collector, the prostitute, the physically disabled, and the morally corrupt. Why did Jesus treat his opponents so differently that those today, who claim to be his followers?
Similarly, look to 1 Peter 3:9: “all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and humble mind.” Again, the label ‘Christian’ inherently calls for full submission to the dictates of the word. Christians don’t have the option of being unsympathetic, arrogant, or rough. To speak and act in a bullying, abrasive manner is to reject the Bible’s authority.
Numerous other virtue lists round out the picture of one who truly follows Jesus. For better understanding, begin reading in Matthew chapter 1 and keep at it through Revelation chapter 22.
Christians in America stand at a five-way (at least) intersection where divergent COVID-19 responses, reckoning with generational & structural racism, bipolar presidential politics, instant feedback on social media, and one’s personal identity all collide. In this maelstrom of words and assaults, what is the Christian’s posture? We know from the virtue lists: when attacked or offended, we are to be humble, kind, gentle, and sympathetic.
Consider the specific arena of Facebook. Is Jesus defiantly posting memes to assert his rights? Well, he never asserts his rights in the Bible, so why would he do so on Facebook? And if he wouldn’t why do his followers? To act in a way differently than Jesus, indicates the individual isn’t really following him.
Zero in on the example of someone who feels offended, hurt, or scared. Does one respond to someone else by defending one’s own right to say or do or post what made the other feel offended, hurt, or scared? If so, that one isn’t communicating in the way Jesus did, and thus is not a ‘little Christ,’ even if he or she claims the moniker ‘Christian.’ A black person feels threatened or hurt; the white person tells the black person not to make a deal out of it; or, not to see race in everything; or, to get over it and move on. Obviously that white person is not walking in the way of Jesus and thus is not ‘Christian’ regardless of his or her claims.
To the black person who feels wounded, Jesus says, “I proclaim release to the captives” (Luke 4:18b); and, “I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28); and, “my peace I give to you; do not let your hearts be troubled” (Jn. 14:27). Jesus welcomes all who are broken, all who are repentant, and all who seek truth. Jesus will give success to the white or Asian or black person who strives to embody kindness, gentleness, welcome, and the other virtues. He will guide the lost and fill the hungry. Christians don’t need to be super saints; they only need to die to self and live in Christ.
Christians embodying Christ will affect the community; working through His church, Jesus will bring change to the way people interact. But that won’t happen when Christians are more caught up in defending their identities and asserting their rights than in exhibiting his holy gentleness and kindness. When Christians, on Facebook and other platforms, act as combatively as anyone else in society, they actively suppress the positive force of the Gospel. Christians acting like the world instead of like Christ hurt the world as much as anything.
Christian reader, does the Bible have authority? Are Christians bound to live by the word? Do Christians understand that choosing to walk in the way of Christ means one chooses to relate to others gently, humbly, kindly, and sympathetically, even when those others are obnoxiously confrontational? To find out if Christians understand these things, look at their Facebook posts and Tweets. Look for Christ in what people express in their social media communications. Holding Facebook up to the virtue lists will reveal who is identified with Christ.