7 paradoxical traits christians should exhibit

What is the modern day Christian known for? I’d like to believe it is by the Fruits of the Spirit™ like patience, goodness, peace and love. But maybe in reality, Christians are known more for their opposition to certain issues. Those people who rally at abortion clinics and who refuse to bake cupcakes for LGBTQ+. But often I’ve found, Christians aren’t known for anything. Because most people don’t even know that they’re Christians to begin with.

People separate their spiritual lives and their personal lives. Because “there’s a time and place for it all.” And there’s truth to that (try quoting bible verses in your next marketing meeting). But shouldn’t our spiritual walk naturally seep into every aspect of our lives? Or do we instead let the motions of our daily lives shroud who we are called to be? Salt and light of the world.

The following traits are ones that I have observed stem from an understanding of the gospel, of grace, of scripture, and the capacity, courage, and wisdom, to apply those truths to the nuances of daily life. These are not a prescription. Nor are they a “get holy quick” to-do list, but something to reflect on, observing our lives to see if we exhibit them. And frankly, a challenge to all, including myself.

These are 7 paradoxical traits that Christians should exhibit.

1. Gentle, yet firm. Scripture takes a clear stance on many issues, and that stance often isn’t the most popular or socially acceptable. But it is the purest form of truth. It is not our duty to be well-liked or well-received; it is our duty to shape the culture with that truth. This does not give us license to be rude, smug, or arrogant, however. We must still be gentle.

Gentle does not mean adjusting our position. It does not call for an avoidance of conflict. Rather it entails choosing our words carefully, fully understanding the impact they can have on people. Our world is littered with toxicity and hatred and pain, and we needn’t contribute more to it.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Death and life are in the power of the tongue

Proverbs 18:21

2. Knowledgeable, yet humble. As Christians, we are called to share the gospel. To help people understand the importance, significance, and relevance of the gospel. In order to do that, we must first be well-versed in scripture. Which can only come from reading it, digging into it, meditating on it, and discussing it, so we can better understand how to apply it to everyday life. Let’s not just prescribe bible verses out of context.

In constantly striving to grow ourselves, we must simultaneously recognize our fallen human nature. With that understanding comes humility. We must come to every conversation knowing we may make a mistake, we may misunderstand, we may hurt someone, and always with a heart of not trying to be right or just get a point across, but in pursuit of gospel-centered truth. All people fall short of the glory of God, and all people includes us.

This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.

1 Corinthians 4:1

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 3:23

3. Justice seeking, expecting controversy. Christ does not call us to be passive in the fight for justice, but rather to be at the forefront of it. But how do we determine what justice looks like? Again, we must first be well-versed in scripture, but we must also be invested and engaged in the world in order to properly apply scripture. We must not stay in our own little bubble, lest we not really understand the realities that we live in.

There will be many times when the Christian’s goals and perspective will align with the common goal of the world. Where we will be allies and well-received for our support. But there will inevitably be times when our thoughts and views are not as welcome. We should expect this, yet still remain unyielding in our perspective and fight for justice.

The veracity of truth is not determined by any amount of support. Likes mean nothing. Scripture means everything.

Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Isaiah 1:17

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 15:19

4. Gracious and resilient. In knowing that people are broken sinners, we should know that people will say hurtful things, misunderstand us, and sometimes just be flat out rude. As Christians, we should have a better understanding than anyone of this fact. But through recognizing our own brokenness, and then reflecting and reveling in the grace that Jesus offers to us despite it, that same grace should overflow into how we treat others.

In recognizing the capacity of others to hurt us (and our own capacity to hurt others), we must also recognize our human limitations in being hurt. It’s okay to feel pain and hurt. Thanks to the Lord that He is one who validates and understands our pain like no other. And who comforts us in ways nothing on this earth can.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled

Hebrews 12:15

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

5. Evangelical, but knowing the limit. Christians should all know the Great Commission: Christ calls us to make disciples of all nations. To openly share the gospel that gives us such joy in our hearts. And to be proud of it. Though, it has a caveat.

We must be able to recognize when things are going nowhere. We mustn’t waste our time. If someone isn’t open to hearing the gospel, know that there are other people who are ready to hear it. When someone doesn’t respond, Christ calls us to literally brush the dirt off our shoulders and move on.

in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

1 Peter 3:15

And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.

Matthew 10:14

6. Loving, not conflict averse. Love should be the main driver in all that we do. Love should overflow into all of our words, our actions, our thoughts, everything. Many times it’s irrelevant who is right or who is wrong, but whether or not we’re really loving each other through it all.

Love is in the pursuit of peace, but is not defined by the absence of conflict. Love is often holding our tongue, but love is sometimes giving the hard truth. The sooner we can change our perspective of love to not be solely about the avoidance of conflict, but from a more eternal perspective – understanding that our eternal lives are at stake, we can start really showing love in all forms.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:6

7. Not judgmental, but discerning. Many times something will sound good to us, but upon further reflection, it doesn’t reflect what the gospel teaches. God calls us to be able to discern right from wrong not from what sounds good, but through His word, which is the ultimate source of truth. We learn what the right path looks like through studying His word, which we first need in order to offer the correction and guidance someone may need to get back onto it. But we must know where to draw the line.

We can express how something or someone makes us feel, we can review the evidence of the Fruits of the Spirit™ in how people act, but we cannot make judgment claims on the motivations of the heart. God calls us to not judge people because those things are only for God to know fully.

I can hardly understand why I do certain things, how am I equipped to judge others? Let’s leave it up to the big guy.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.

1 Corinthians 4:5

If you are a Christian and you work in a secular environment, if you have friends who don’t believe in God, honestly… if you just live in the same world I do, I implore you to really think about if these traits are reflected in your life. Evangelism is no longer street preaching. It’s not finding any opportunity in conversations to quote scripture, to invite your secular friends to church, to pester your buddies about recognizing their sin. Modern evangelism starts with the everyday interactions we have with people. We should mirror Christ in all aspects of our lives, trying to be an example of how to live a different way in this world.

When people learn that we are Christians, do they question it? Do they wonder how? Or do they think, “so that’s why.”

February 6, 2020

Josh Swanson