What do you find most annoying about Christians?
In an effort to get a little honest feedback, that was the simple question I asked my Facebook friends recently. They’re all over the map spiritually, and the response went far beyond anything I expected. Apparently, many people – including Christians – find followers of Jesus rather difficult.
As I sorted through the comments, four major themes emerged. I’ve incorporated your (fantastic) responses throughout, so in many ways this is a group guest post. 🙂
Let’s take a look at the four ways Christians annoy others, why it matters, and, one big truth that will begin to help us change.
Four Big Ways Christians Annoy Their Neighbors
Let’s dive right in.
#1 Christians are judgmental
We can be overly critical, condemning and disapproving. One commenter mentioned ‘church leaders and church organizations who… are instead intent on pointing an accusing finger at others’, while another said ‘the church is one of the best places to go to feel shame and judgment’. Another person said that ‘Christians often treat us with disapproval or worse’.
#2 Christians are hypocritical
In Jesus’ day, ‘hypocrites’ were actors who played different characters on stage. Their work involved being someone they were not in real life. While we expect this from actors and movie stars, it’s a problem when Christians ‘don’t practice what we preach’. Someone else suggested that ‘maybe Christians would do better and be respected more if more of them lived by their beliefs’.
#3 Christians are overly focused on law and behavior instead of grace and the heart
While we claim to follow a God who freely forgives, we often become obsessed with mere external obedience. One of my friends, sometimes feels pressure ‘to pray more, read more, worship more, rest more, live in community more, etc — always something I have to DO’. This is exhausting because, well, we’re not all that good or determined. Furthermore, emphasizing our behavior can lead to being judgmental when (we think) we’re doing better than others, and discouragement when we’re not.
#4 Christians are uncomfortable with doubt, hard questions, and disagreement
One person shared the experience of ‘dismissal of [his] curiosity, inquisitiveness, or [desire for] discussion as a lack of faith’. Someone else added ‘pretending we have all the answers figured out’ and ‘treating doubt with fear rather than as a healthy part of growing faith’. Many of us seem to want more certainty, clarity, and unity than we can realistically have in our broken, fallen world.
So admittedly, the sample size is small, but I think it’s pretty representative of how we annoy and offend.
How does this list strike you?
In our Facebook discussion, a few people rightly said that, just because something is annoying doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Jesus annoyed people all the time, and we know that he wasn’t the issue. Sometimes, it’s not only acceptable, but necessary, to ruffle others’ feathers and play the role of the prophet.
It’s also worth mentioning that everyone, not only Christians, is prone to these things.
The Cost Of Annoying Others
With those obligatory disclaimers, the question is still a very important one for at least three reasons. Sure, everyone is annoying at times, but when followers of Jesus are difficult it…
… is selfish and keeps people from Jesus.
As one of my friends commented, everyone is annoying at times, but ‘the tragedy is that when Christians do such things we bring dishonor to the name of Jesus.’ Listen to Paul, who calls us to ‘give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved’ (1 Corinthians 10:32-33). He seems to say that giving (unnecessary) offense to anyone is both self-centered and can keep them from Jesus, doesn’t he?
Before you call the theology police, I’m not saying our actions – good or bad – are decisive in whether someone trusts Christ. After all, Paul also says, ‘by grace you have been saved through faith… it is the gift of God, not a result of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). But while God’s purposes always stand, we can either help or get in the way. When we annoy people around us, we give them a carnival-mirror-Jesus instead of the real thing.
… causes offense and conflicts that consume us.
Ever been in a conflict with someone? I can remember trying to worship at church while I was in the midst of a conflict with someone else there. It was nearly impossible to give my full attention to God and the people around me. When we’re difficult and annoying, we create tension in our relationships that distracts us from our highest calling of loving God and the people around us (Matthew 22:37-39).
… dishonors God.
I’ve saved the worst for last. ‘You who boast in the law [that’s us] dishonor God by breaking the law’ (Romans 2:23). It should be obvious, but when we mistreat people created in God’s image, we dishonor the God who created them, too.
Hopefully you’ll agree that it’s no small thing for us, as Christians, to needlessly annoy the people around us. ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all’ (Romans 12:18).
One Massive Solution To A Really Big Problem
I’d like to close with something a few of you brought up. Something that’s so big and so foundational that it’s way better than ‘twenty tips to never annoy your neighbor again’.
In response to the initial question of what’s most annoying about Christians, one of my friends said:
‘How tiny the Gospel is for many Christians, as many of us imprison it within the confines of the institutional church framework, instead of considering its immeasurable impact on all of life.’
And another put it even more simply, like this:
‘…small gospel and a very, very small God.’
These brilliantly simple responses get to the very heart of our struggles with the people around us. Most of us have no idea how absolutely massive the gospel and God really are. Because we haven’t practically grasped the enormity of our sin, Christ’s grace, or the power we possess through the Spirit, we treat other people lightly. And – at least in the moment – find it a rather small matter if we annoy them. Like my tendency to honk, longer than I should, at anyone who offends me on the road.
How to actually grow in the gospel will have to wait for another post. But as we ‘work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling,’ understanding that ultimately ‘it is God who works in [us]’ (Philippians 2:12, 13), the transformation we experience will go far beyond anything a practical tip or two could produce. We will become more attractive, less annoying people who point others to Jesus and honor him deeply.
Questions for reflection:
- If you follow Jesus, what might others find most annoying about you?
- How would internalizing what Jesus did for you more deeply begin to transform the way others experience you, especially in the areas you identified in #1?