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