By Cindi McMenamin, Crosswalk.com
I’ll never forget the day my daughter, Dana, opened my eyes to what the world at large believes about Christians.
When Dana had visited Kosovo for a missions project during college, she and other believers on the trip were instructed not to identify themselves as Christians. They were, instead, to refer to themselves as Christ-followers.
“In some countries, the term Christian is synonymous with American and carries with it negative connotations – it says more about one’s political beliefs and excesses than personal values,” Dana told me. “The term Christ-follower describes a Person and a lifestyle.”
Upon hearing that, I was convicted through the years to make sure that my life resembles a Christ-follower, and that I follow a Person, not the rules and expectations of a political association, a religious denomination, or a long-held tradition. So, in an attempt to share with you my own convictions, let me give you this list I’ve come up with on the 10 things real Christ-following women shouldn’t do, so we aren’t living out the negative stereotypes others have of Christians.
1. Ignore the Needs of Others
Here in America, it’s easy to be comfortable and live in excess even though people are suffering around us -- whether it’s across town or across the world. In James 2:15-17 we are warned against being all talk and no action: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Furthermore, when a rich man asked Jesus what good thing he must do to get eternal life, Jesus told him to obey God’s laws including “love your neighbor as yourself.” When this man claimed to keep all of these laws, Jesus challenged that love and said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 9:21). It’s a pretty tall order – one that few of us (myself included) can follow. But to be a Christ-follower, we have to be willing to lose it all to gain Him.
2. Prioritize Your Possessions over People
Jesus warned us about the lure of material possessions and how they could interfere with our priorities. He wanted His followers to be investing in their eternal home, not amassing huge collections here on earth to horde and keep to ourselves.
In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” A Christ-follower invests in kingdom work, eternal priorities, and the things that will outlast this earth, like souls rather than stuff. For you and me that means if all of our investments are this side of heaven and our homes are so nice we don’t want anyone dirty or smelly sitting on our new couch, or we can’t stand the thought of getting our freshly manicured nails dirty in order to help someone, we are not living – and thinking – like a Christ-follower.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/oatawa
3. Worry and Stress about the Unknown
Have you ever seen a well-loved child worry about his next meal, or his physical protection or his future stability? Jesus wanted His followers to be secure in His love and care for them like children who have no worries because they know they are loved and protected. Yet women are experts at worrying about the unknown. Even Christian women.
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear… Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26). When you stress and worry you are saying to others that you have no one acting on your behalf, no one to help you through your ordeal, and no one who can move mountains to come through for you. When you exercise faith and trust in a sovereign God who can take care of the details of your life, you are living like a Christ-follower.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/MangoStar_Studio
4. Obsess over Anything Other than Christ
Okay, I’m guilty. Over the years, I’ve obsessed over makeup, skincare products, my weight, working out, pink clothing, cute shoes, Cinderella dolls, should I keep going? I have run after many things, all the while attending my Bible studies and being a good Christian girl. It isn’t until the last couple of decades that I have had to take Christ’s words seriously: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). If we’re not supposed to love our own family more than God, then certainly we aren’t to obsess over things or activities either.
Women are experts at obsessing. We can obsess over neatness, over cleanliness, over avoiding germs, over our looks, or our houses, or our husbands, or our children. Whatever we pour our hearts into, whatever occupies our thoughts and desires, whatever becomes a priority in our lives over than that of loving God, is something we obsess over.
This is also considered unfaithfulness because putting anything (food, causes, friendships, dating relationships, fiancée or husband, children, job, career, success) higher than God on our list of desires turns that thing (or person) into a god that we seek. God is a jealous God. He hates when we run toward, obsess after, or seek for anything above Him (Matthew 6:33). A Christ-follower is just that – one who follows hard after Christ, not anything or anyone else.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/JaePark
5. Refuse to Forgive Someone
Through the years I’ve received emails from Christian women telling me the circumstances of their hurt or betrayal and asking for justification to not forgive. I can’t find it anywhere in the Word of God and certainly not in the words of Jesus.
Christ said the world would know His followers by their love. And the greatest evidence of love is forgiveness – even when we feel wronged, betrayed, and taken advantage of. Even when someone doesn’t specifically ask for our forgiveness or show remorse. Even when we don’t feel they deserve our forgiveness.
In Matthew 6, Jesus taught us to pray “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (verse 12). True Christ-followers realize they are personally not worthy of Christ’s forgiveness, but because they are so grateful for it, they freely extend the same forgiveness to others. Christ-followers forgive – without exception – as they have been forgiven.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Deagreez
6. Gossip about Others
It happens. We gossip about others in the form of “sharing a prayer request” or voicing our concern about another person’s “fall from grace.” But a Christ-follower is burdened by the sins and frustrations of others and lifts them up in prayer, without hanging them out to dry. Scripture instructs: “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).
Jesus said the second greatest commandment, next to loving God with all your heart soul, mind, and strength, was to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Love doesn’t gossip. It doesn’t run down another’s reputation. Instead “it always protects” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NASB). A Christ-follower speaks words that Jesus would. And Jesus didn’t gossip.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/MangoStar_Studio
7. Judge Non-Believers for Not Acting Like Believers
I was guilty of this just after I married. Thankfully, I married a man studying for the pastorate who quickly set me straight. “Why expect an unbeliever to act like a believer?” Hugh asked me. “When someone is apart from Christ, they are under the slavery of sin. It is our job to make sure we are living under the mastery of Jesus Christ.” Then he shared with me Romans 6:20-22: “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness… But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
A Christ-follower doesn’t point the finger at sinners and judge them. She recognizes that Christ will judge them and she prays that their eyes will be opened and their heart surrendered to a new master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
8. Expect Other Christians to Live by Your Convictions
My husband isn’t the only one who points out to me when I act unbecoming of a Christ-follower. My 25-year-old daughter will call me on “judging” even when I make what I consider “verbal observations” about others. “That’s judging, Mom,” she says. And annoying as it is to hear her say that, 98 percent of the time she’s right.
Just because I have personal convictions that prevent me from going certain places, drinking certain substances, and succumbing to certain fashions, doesn’t mean others are wrong – or less Christian – who exercise their liberties in Christ and choose to do things differently than me. The Apostle Paul told Christ-followers in Galatians 5:1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (a set of laws you believe you must follow in order to earn God’s approval).”
If you were raised in Sunday School like me, this is a tough one to kick when you’re an adult. But Christ showed grace to the sinner, to the new believer who was ignorant, and to the follower whose heart was right before Him. The only people Jesus didn’t show grace and patience toward were the “religious” people who were proud of themselves for keeping “the rules” and looked down on others whom they didn’t believe were as holy as themselves. Ouch!
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Prostock-Studio
9. Fill Up Social Media Platforms with Self
Okay, I know I’m going to step on some toes here and lest I sound judgmental and become guilty of number 8 which I just told you NOT to do, please hear me out. I’m sorry if you see it as a healthy self-esteem, but posting selfie after selfie on social media says “I’m all about myself.” Scripture says when we follow Christ we become all about Him. John the Baptist said “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, NKJV). For me to decrease, my selfies must decrease, too.
Showing no selfie-control means we haven’t yet grasped the truth of Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Put other people in those pictures with you and make it about the good time you are sharing with someone else. When people see you, they should see Christ, not a bunch of pictures of just you.
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/elisa-ph
10. Get Easily Offended
The spirit of offense is alive and well in churches today. It looks like this.
- You are hurt by something someone said or did to you.
- You refuse to talk to that person who has hurt you. Or, worse yet…
- You share your wound with another person who then sides with you and also alienates the person who hurt you.
Not only does Scripture tell us that “it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11), but the Apostle Paul told the First Century Christ-followers “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3, NASB). To be hidden with Christ is to identify with Him so completely that our personal feelings don’t dictate our actions, and we don’t care about our image or reputation anymore. It is a form of complete surrender. And it is what will tell the world you are not merely a Christian but a Christ-follower.
Cindi McMenamin is a Bible teacher, pastor’s wife, and national speaker who helps women and couples strengthen their walk with God and their relationships. She is the author of 16 books, including the best-selling When Women Walk Alone (more than 125,000 copies sold), When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, When God Sees Your Tears, and her newest book, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You. For more on her speaking ministry, books, or free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.