How come Christians do bad things?

If someone complains "the church is full of hypocrites", we usually answer "there's always room for one more" ... but it's a fair complaint, isn't it!  Why aren't Christians nicer, more honest, more kind?

Some people feel very strongly about this. G and F, a couple in London, were so upset by one pastor's rudeness to their Scout troop that they stopped going to church - for 20 years! Many, many people have been deeply offended by the actions of church officials and members. How can Christians be so awful?

Years ago V. started learning the guitar in a class with a fantastic teacher. Some students were brilliant (John Williams was pretty amazing) - and some sounded dreadful. Christians too have a fantastic teacher, but many of them are still fairly dreadful. Did you see that pin "God's making me perfect! ... But He isn't quite finished yet"? Christians are struggling hard to love their neighbour, but it's often not obvious.

Ah yes, you say, but Christians claim to do bad things IN GOD'S NAME! They feel righteous.

This can happen for two reasons. One is that we make mistakes. Look at Holy Wars - "fighting for God". Emily, grandmother to one of us, got pregnant as a teenager. Her parents literally threw her out of the house, penniless, onto the streets of London. And they believed they were doing right. They thought that was what God wanted. ... Wrong, but sincere.

The other reason is that the Devil makes us lie to ourselves. A youth leader may promote a pretty girl WAY above the rest, saying "She's so talented for the Lord" and believing it - but everyone else can see that it's actually because he's attracted to her. A pastor may ask others to do the visitation "because I'm not very skilled at that" - but actually because of his laziness, or shyness.

Well OK, you are thinking, but surely Christians should be better than non-Christians?

The problem here is that we don't all start equal. One young person starts with a sunny disposition, good health and nice manners. Another may be irritable, shy, and with headaches. When you learn that the SECOND one is the Christian you are disgusted. But it's not a fair comparison, is it? You need to compare "before and after"?

S was a card-player with a wicked sense of humour. We had great evenings full of laughter - a lot of it at his wife's expense (S. was merciless with his jokes). Eventually they had marital problems and went for counselling, with the local church pastor because it was free. The pastor talked so much sense that the marriage got better and better, AND S became a Christian! For a while his wife was very suspicious of "all this religious stuff". But eventually she said "I have to admit, he's so much nicer" - and she became a believer too.

But hey - it's such a bad advertisement for the faith, when Christians are mean!

Yes indeed. But YOU can do something about that. Maybe one reason God allows Christians to be bad is to teach us how to correct them, lovingly. It's an important skill, and Paul's letters give us some good hints. But it's not easy.

Ever go to a church where just one person was singing WAY out of tune in the choir, wrecking the music? That's not because the rest haven't noticed. It's because no-one knew how to gently tell old so-and-so that he can't actually sing well. Not sure how important music is, but it's important that one person's failings don't spoil our witness to the world.

The GodOrNot team.