Just as the children of godly, loving parents don’t always take on the loving characteristics of their parents, God’s children can also choose to be unkind and sometimes just plain mean. And, those who don’t know Jesus as their Savior point to those unkind Christians and say, “Why should I join your team? I’m nicer than she is!”
Engaging unbelieving co-workers
This topic came up in a class I was teaching about intentionally engaging unbelievers in your life to show them who Christ is as they observe your own life. The hope is that you will be able to lead them to faith in Christ and help them to grow in their faith.
During the class, I asked the women to think about how to engage their unbelieving co-workers. One of the dear women in my class asked, “What do I say when my unbelieving co-worker is upset because another woman in the office who declares herself a Christian is mean and continually hurts the feelings of the one who doesn’t know Christ?” As the rest of the women in the class joined in the discussion, it was sadly evident this was not an isolated case! So, what do you say?
There’s always the fall-back, “Christians are not perfect; we are all sinners.” However, that doesn’t soothe hurt feelings, especially if that Christian co-worker never confesses her wrong attitude and apologizes. Right?
The freedom to choose ungodly behaviors
As I’ve mulled over this, I recognize we all have blind spots in our lives—areas where we practice behaviors that were perhaps modeled for us without facing up to the reality that those are wrong.
When we are sensitive to the Spirit of God’s leading in our lives, He will point those bad behaviors out to us, especially as we renew our minds with God’s Word. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to be kind because God was first kind to us in forgiving us through what Jesus has done for us. Colossians 4:5-6 exhorts us to season our conversation with grace so our words invite others to want to know Jesus.
Yet…not all runners choose to become marathoners. Not all cooks choose to become chefs. Not all Christians choose to be kind, loving, compassionate grace-givers. It’s still a choice. And, although we have been redeemed from the slave market of sin by Jesus’ finished work on the cross, that old slave master “sin” still calls our name. Sin still pushes the “mean spirit” button. And, out of habit, Christians can respond with mean spirits.
Bad behaviors aren’t true to who God is.
So, what do you say to the non-Christian who points this out? You can remind them that children don’t always obey even the best of parents. God’s children are greatly loved, yet some still choose to not love others the way they are loved. They are being disobedient to their Father God. That Christian office mate is missing out on the joy of showing kindness to others and enjoying a friendship with her co-workers. She is refusing to recognize her meanness and its effect on her co-workers, especially in the name of Christ.
As a believer who cares for your co-worker, you can say, “Sadly, she has chosen to not let the joy of being on God’s team overflow to us. But, I have not. God fills my heart with love for you as my friend. And, if you join His team through faith in Christ, He will fill your heart with His love and joy that will overflow to others if you choose to let it.”
What if you are the one with the “mean spirit”
Paul addressed this in Ephesians 4:29, a verse that every Christian should memorize.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
Think about what you say to those around you and how you respond to them. Ask yourself: “What did I say that was building them up and beneficial to them? Or, am I just blowing off steam in a mean way?” Maybe you have fallen into a bad habit of mean words. Stop it.
If a believer is mean to you, quote Ephesians 4:29 and say, “Want to try that again?”
Remember this: GOD’S OVERFLOWING LOVE DEFEATS the “mean spirit” button every time.
Healthy Living Bible Study of Colossians (read online)
Healthy Living Bible Study of Colossians (download pdf)
Seek the Treasure Bible Study of Ephesians (download pdf)