“How come church people are so mean?”

My eight-year-old mind could hardly wrap around how cruel some people acted towards my dad (their pastor) and others inside the congregational family.

My frustration reached its boiling point when I asked my mother “How come church people are so mean?”  I didn’t understand about growing in grace or anything of the sort.  I just wondered why they didn’t have to live up to the same standards my parents were teaching me.

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Is it possible the world wonders the same thing about us “church people”?  Why do we seem so mad? Why do we seem so upset?  Where’s our joy?  Peace?  Love?  Hope?

Perhaps you as a Christian wonder why other professed Christians can be so mean.

Maybe Timothy needed the same encouragement as the Apostle Paul wrote 2 Timothy 2:19.

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”  

2 Timothy 2:19
New International Version

In light of the denial of the truth of Scripture practiced by some people in the fellowship of the Ephesian congregation, the Apostle was confident. The foundation is resilient and unshakable.

What is the foundation Paul is referring to?  The Church as a whole, and the Ephesian congregations in specific.  Back in 1 Timothy 3:15(b), the Apostle Paul describes the Church as “the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

It was the Church the Lord Jesus promised to build (Matthew 16:18) and it would be the Church the Lord Jesus sustains in the truth of His word until His return.  No heretics, whether credentialed or not, would be able to destroy the foundation of the truth the Church guards.

The first quote the Apostle Paul makes is from Numbers 16:5. This was an account of rebellion in the Israelite camp.  Regardless of the rebellion, the Lord knew His people and would protect them.  With the same knowledge, the Lord knows those who are His and those who are pretending to be His.

The second quote is from a summary of Psalm 34:14 and Proverbs 3:7.  It’s possible this was a common statement Paul made.  The idea is consistent throughout Scripture: the Lord’s people demonstrate their changed hearts by changed lives.

And the Lord’s wisdom of knowing His children from imposters and the proof of the legitimate children of God living holy lives forms a seal over Christians.  A seal was a way to mark authenticity of the contents of a letter or correspondence. 

The life of a Christian is sealed by the proof of authenticity to the world.

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Not everyone claiming to be a Christian truly is.  Those who walk away from the truth of God’s Word, whether in belief or in actions, validate they are not sealed with authenticity by the Lord.

They are not the enemy.

They are the captives whom the Lord Jesus gives us the mission of releasing from the prison of sin by introducing them to the life-changing, life-giving, love-inspiring, grace-walking, and hope-filled truth of God’s transforming grace in Jesus.

I’m a lot older than eight, and I still wince at how cruel “church people” can be.  I know.  They can sometimes be cruel to me, too.

But know this: we get to show the love of Jesus to them.  We get to show them the grace they have denied themselves.  We get to be the ambassadors of the grace of Jesus.

And we don’t know how much the Lord will use us to transform them.