8 “Christian” Virtues That Are Not Really Christian

What if certain virtues we equate with following Jesus aren’t actually Christian?

What if certain Christian virtues we equate with following Jesus aren’t actually Christian? Are we following Jesus or following someone's expectation of what it means to be Christian?

What if certain Christian virtues we equate with following Jesus aren’t actually Christian?

Like it or not, culture shapes our picture of Jesus.

If we don’t identify false stigmas and misconceptions, we will devote time and energy cultivating a virtue that isn’t Christian.

I hate disclaimers, but what follows deserves one. The virtues below aren’t evil. I’m not asking you to avoid them. I am asking you to think seriously about what it means to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Here are eight Christian virtues that aren’t really Christian.

1. Niceness is not a Christian virtue.

I can’t help but wonder what we would think about Jesus in modern-day America.

We’re talking about a guy who called one of his closest friends Satan. He talked disrespectfully to religious leaders. Nice wouldn’t be the first word I would use.

Was Jesus kind? Absolutely. Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. Here’s the problem, though. Niceness and kindness aren’t interchangeable.

Nice is cheap. It costs you nothing. Nice avoids tension and always strokes your ego, even if Ray Charles could see you’re wrong.

Kindness, however, tells you what you need to hear. It won’t stroke your ego because you’re awesome. Kindness loves you too much for that. The seeds of kindness are planted in the soil of love. From this rich earth comes real tension. But the end result is a fruitful life.

I wonder how many friends Jesus would have in an overly sensitive culture where ego stroking is a national pastime?

I know Jesus would infuriate me. For much of my life, I equated niceness with godliness. Good friends would never call me out, I thought. Good Christians wouldn’t either.

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But I struggle to equate niceness with godliness when I read the Gospels. Maybe we need more Christian like Jesus. Maybe we need more friends like Jesus. I know I do.

2. Always saying “Yes” is not a Christian virtue.

When Tiffani and I graduated college, we immediately plugged into a local church. For the first two years, we said yes to everything.

“Will you lead a prayer in worship Sunday?”

Yes.

“We’re short a few volunteers. Will you help out at the food pantry?”

Yes.

“Will you housesit our cats?”

No. I don’t do cats. Neither does Jesus.

Good Christians were servants, I thought. They never say no. They’re “yes men (and women)”…for Jesus.

While you should serve your local church, the weight of “yes” can (and will) cripple you. For those who say “yes” too often, you feel this weight.

Here’s why. Oftentimes, we say yes because we want to feel needed. It’s about approval, not servanthood.

Saying no to a volunteer opportunity is hard. Saying no to a toxic friendship is painful. Saying no to peer pressure, negativity, temptation and abuse, all of these are hard.

But let’s not bow down to the god of yes. This god takes everything and gives nothing.

3. Perfect church attendance is not a Christian virtue.

I’m still healing from years of unhealthy exposure to this false Christian virtue. Faithful Christians didn’t miss worship. Ever. They never missed small group. They didn’t miss any church function. Period.

Gathering with Christians matters, of course. But it’s very possible to have perfect church attendance and know very little about God. Much like perfect school attendance doesn’t guarantee good grades.

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God is much more concerned with the condition of your heart than the location of your butt.

4. Following the rules is not a Christian virtue.

I grew up equating rule following with Christ following. Good Christians didn’t break rules. They didn’t miss curfew, cheat on tests or drink alcohol. Oh, and they didn’t curse or have tattoos.

A perfect driving record doesn’t qualify you as a Christian any more than an alcohol addiction disqualifies you.

Besides, some rules need to be broken. They’re faulty and oppressive. Rather than equating righteousness with rule-following, let’s equate righteousness with Jesus.

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Frank Powell
Frank Powell serves in the Campbell Street Church of Christ in Jackson, Tenn., ministering to college-age and young adults.
  • Gwen Rushing

    So enjoy your posts. You get to the heart of things and express it well and without compromise. Thank you.

  • Ronnie DelBacco

    I have come to love reading all the articles posted by yous guys. I share them and occasionally have used them in Sunday School lessons. Thank you!

  • Zilch

    That is amzing. It made me look at myself and my faith in a different way. Thanks so much Frank!

  • eleni_aus

    have heard no. 3 too often provided as an excuse/reason to just ‘not attend’ at all… forgetting the injunction to not forsake gathering together, robbing ourselves of the opportunity of participating in communion or hearing the Word , or being prompted to confess – and forgive and be forgiven … to be blessed in so many ways… It’s not being a slave to it, and nagging kids senseless, ‘dragging’ them to church, but being a member, modelling membership in one’s life rather than as a badge or source of exhaustion through over-yessing … loved Luther’s reminder to serve/worship with family as part of our worship… rather than starve the family to feed the ‘church’ ..I suppose it all should be a generous / joyous / mutually suportive part of our lives

    • Dottie Mertsky

      I’ve known non-believers who were better than some Christians. All good people……but not all going to heaven.

  • John Thompson

    So you are saying that if Jesus were here today he would approve of lying? Promptness being on time when you have said you would be there is a matter of honesty as much as anything so that makes it a virtue. So by what you are saying then I take it that if I tell you that I will be somewhere at a particular time and something better comes up that I do not need to keep my commitment to you and can just not show up.
    Your claim that Jesus changed plans without warning is based upon what? He was not late to Lazarus, he intentionally did not go but also had not promised to be there as you assume.
    “Jesus flipped the model of righteousness and holy living. ” Yes nut not at the expense of the knowledge of the Word. He told his disciples that they were to do what the Pharisees did and said to do but not with their attitude. He is the one that said that they should have without neglecting the weightier parts.

  • Paul Nurmi

    Passion is not really a Christian virtue. A lot of leaders in today’s church speak of passion as being so important yet passion is often not good. In fact sometimes it is actually good to take a step back and not be so passionate about things. Think and meditate on truth rather than allow our emotions and feelings to dominate.

  • David Stewart

    I would agree that having all these things doesn’t make you a good Christian and they aren’t necessary to be a Christian, but I think that knowledge of the Bible, especially, is something to strive for, not necessarily Bible trivia or obscure facts, but knowing deeply what God says and what the Bible means. I’m surprised at so many Christians who haven’t read the whole Bible and don’t know what it says beyond the more well-known passages. Anyway, good post to think about and start a discussion.
    -David
    (https://greenwalledchapel.home.blog/)