I’ve been reading a lot of Dallas Willard lately, and at some point I’ll write at length about the reason. Meanwhile, here’s a passage from his book Renovation of the Heart which reflects his overarching theme namely: Jesus told us how to behave, and what he said wasn’t so hard to understand—so why don’t we do it?
Warren Wiersbe tells how he was approached by an older gentleman at a church where he was to speak. The man expressed awareness that Warren sometimes quoted a certain popular paraphrase of the Bible. Warren replied, “When I write, I quote whatever translation best says what I want to teach at that point in the book, it doesn’t mean I approve of everything in it.” To this the man replied, almost shouting, “Well, I’m not going to sit and listen to a man who has no convictions about the Word of God,” and he “turned and stormed out of the church in anger, disobeying the very Bible he thought he was defending.”
One of our finest Christian college presidents recently devoted his periodic mail-out to the question, "Why are Christians so mean to one another so often?" He quotes numerous well-known Christian leaders on this theme, and says for himself:
As a leader of a Christian organization, I feel the brunt of just this kind of meanness within the Christian community, a mean-spirited suspicion and judgment that mirrors the broader culture. Every Christian leader I know feels it …. It is difficult to be Christian in a secular world …. But, you know, it is sometimes more difficult to be a leader in Christian circles. There too you can be vilified for just the slightest move that is displeasing to someone.
And he continues on with the details.
This is one of the most common points of commiseration among our leaders. The leader of one denomination recently said to me, "When I am finished with this job I am going to write a book on the topic, Why Are Christians So Mean?"
Well, there actually is an answer to that question. And we must face this answer and effectively deal with it or Satan will sustain his stranglehold on spiritual transformation in local congregations. Christians are routinely taught by example and word that it is more important to be right (always in terms of their beloved tradition) than it is to be Christlike. In fact, being right licenses you to be mean, and, indeed,requires you to be mean–righteously mean, of course. You must be hard on people who are wrong, and especially if they are in positions of Christian leadership. They deserve nothing better. This is what I have elsewhere called the practice of "condemnation engineering."
When Willard writes that “there actually is an answer” to the question of why Christians are so mean, he isn’t pointing to the usual, “Well, we’re all fallen and imperfect creatures and will continue to be so this side of heaven..” He means that there are actual specific things that we could do, have failed to do, and need to do to conquer our meanness. Who knew?