Deconstructed Faith,  Faith & Culture,  Love Wins,  Relationships

When Christians don’t act like Jesus

christians 3No matter what group of people I’m connecting with, EVERYONE has a ridiculous (or scandalous) story that comes to mind when this is brought up. A story where we or someone we love was hurt or done wrongly inside of church.

When the story is told, it’s just as fresh and raw as when it first happened.

Because enduring a wrong from someone who claims to represent God, just stings more. It cuts deeper. It goes into a mixed bag of potential fears about God, what he thinks of you, if he’s punishing you…the list of God-fear-wreckage goes on and on.

I listen as people recount the pain, heartbreak and at times trauma of what they went through.

I had a mantra I used to go into where I would say, Jesus isn’t like those people! He’s a safe place – all Christians don’t act that way!

But, throughout my career inside the church (not a particular building, but the church as a whole) I watched leaders and non-leaders alike, make a liar out of me as the same story play out.

It looks a bit like this:

You did/said something we disagree with + you no longer fit the mold/standards here = we push you out.

Whether the issue is tithing, parenting, divorce, politics, homosexuality, abortion, women in leadership, etc, it usually played out the same way.

I recently met with a precious woman who shared a story that fit into this all-too-familiar model.

It broke my heart.

I would normally put a conversation like that away in my lockbox (it’s like an internal file of intimate stories that I forever hold close) But, this time was different.

I couldn’t shake it.

Because, I’ve heard it too many times.

I’ve wiped too many tears.

I’ve tried to repair too many angry, bitter souls.



I compared her story to countless others that horrify and anger me every time I remember them.



It shouldn’t be normal.

It shouldn’t be okay.

I have many theories, but there is one core idea that I believe has infiltrated the church and religious institution at large.

One very simple, yet freakishly powerful, anthem that is responsible for the continuing piles of slaughtered hearts  –  many who vow to never cross the doors of a church again.

This core belief says: there are “them” and there are “us”.

This belief draws a line between the world and the church – the believers and the non-believers.

It decides who is out and who is in.

It disregards the concept of everyone being God’s child. It discounts the model that Jesus gave, where there is room for everyone at the table, where everyone is welcome and everyone is loved. It defies equality and instead pushes exclusivity.

It says: this is the club and we will decide if you are in or out.

Now, if you’re wondering what the deciding factors are, let me reassure you, I have this thing memorized. (After all, this has been my world and I know the rules quite well)

The rules to becoming one of the “us” group in the evangelical world (drumroll please):

  1. You must have a confession of faith ie: be “saved” (this doesn’t immediately get you in, but it’s a start. It gets your name on the radar of the church group you’re a part of)
  2. You must change your lifestyle to fit your church’s beliefs and accept their doctrine
  3. You must not openly “struggle” with anything, or you will be quickly debunked and have to start back at #1 again. (not become saved all over again, although some require that. Most of them just want to see a “rededication” of sorts)

I’m laughing a bit, because of the absolute ridiculousness of this. But, I understand that for many of you this is your reality and it’s a very real and present mountain that you are working your darndest to climb.

Because no one wants to be out.

It’s scary.

Especially when you’re taught that being out has a ticket to hell attached to it (but that’s a whole other blog…I’m gonna tuck that one away for later)

A friend told me once about how she and her husband joined a small group for young marrieds at their church.

They had an open share time during the group and her husband opened up about his struggle with pornography.

The entire room fell silent.

Awkward tension filled the space.

But, in that brave moment of vulnerability, he fell from his status as one of  “us” and quickly became one of “them”.

Meaning, he now is a project to be fixed. He’s no longer an equal who could be your friend, but is now in need of an accountability group, a recovery class and surely some pastoral counseling.


And we scratch our heads and wonder why Christians are so “fake”, “closed” and “don’t live in community with each other”??

We wonder why no one is vulnerable.

Pastors and leaders know that the lack of connection and intimacy within their churches is an issue.

So, they push small groups.

They pay guest speakers to teach workshops on vulnerability and the value of connection.

But they are only treating the symptoms while failing to treat the cause.

Brene’ Brown speaks to the topic of vulnerability beautifully. She says, “…true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world…”

We will never be an authentic group of people, until we are able to rid ourselves of the belief that we are better and different than the rest of society. 

Because here’s the deal: people “in the world” are just like most inside the church.

Most people in the world are looking at the same stuff online as people inside the church. Most people in the world are having the same fights at home, the same struggles at work and the same issues internally.

We are all insecure.

We all are fearful.

We are all trying to do the best that we can.


Yet, inside the church, there tends to be this standard of rules and expectations. And, by God, if you don’t hold fast to them or fully embrace/agree with every single one, often you are quickly put on the list as one of “those poor lost souls in need of Jesus”.

Again with the belief: there are “them” and there are “us”.

But here’s the truth:

There is no them and us.

There never has been.

We are all on one side and God is on the other.

There was a gap between heaven and us. That was the line. And God offered his beautiful son to be murdered to close that gap once and for all. Yet, we (Christians) continue to try to reinstitute that gap and recreate some imaginary line where we are heavenly and the rest are worldly.


God sees us all as his children.

All the same filthy messes who he endearingly loves.

Jesus was an ambassador of that message.

The message that screams hope and smothers us with grace. The one that says, I will tear apart that which separates the clean from the unclean. I will smear the line between the holy and the unholy. I will lay my body between the two and build a bridge so that all may enter in.


Jesus was a revolutionary.

That was not rewarded inside the church back then and the story tends to be the same today.

But, I dream of a church where bravery, vulnerability, transparency, tenderness and revolutionaries are not rejected, but are embraced.

Where conformity, sameness, exclusivity and spiritual bullying not rewarded but where love stands firm in it’s place.

I believe this change can happen, but it begins with one revolutionary at a time.

One who dares to be different. Who instead of self-righteousness, stands for grace, love, mercy and forgiveness – just like our Jesus.

Go in love.

Go in peace.


Author. Blogger. Speaker. Momma to 4.


  • Valerie Hunter

    Thank you so much for this Anna! I faced this situation in my women’s group, and I can tell you, God got the silent treatment for a couple of days. But, I was reminded by the very person who led the charge against me to take me pain to my precious Jesus. I am so glad my faith and my Jesus are stronger than other people’s opinions of my life choices. I hope others who have faced this remember that their God is bigger than any church or group.

    • Anna McCarthy

      So very true. I read your blog post and it was so beautifully said. Couldn’t have said it better! I so appreciate your thoughts and perspective. It’s a breath of fresh air. As always, love it when I hear from you!

  • George A. McAloon

    The church should be for sinners, unfortunately, that is not always the way it is. Just like a hospital is full of sick people, not the healthy. Your message resonates with me as walk this path towards living fully with Christ!

  • Nehemiah Project

    Just answered a question on FB about whether Christians feel they have to be fake around the Church. I am going to add this article to the comments.
    Keep a watch…working on an article about behavior approvals in the Church. Would love your take on it. Coming within a week, or so.

  • Jeanna Suttle

    Thank you Anna for your dedication to our Lord. Your love for Him and His children is so evident and your words ring truth in my ears. They resonate in my soul and I recognize God. He has gifted you with His word, using your imagination to build intensely truthful vocabulary.
    Thank you for sharing!

  • lifeabundant224

    I understand the overall meaning of this article, and I appreciate you seeking to address the problem of hypocrisy and the pharasaic attitude often found in the church. My only question is this: where in Scripture does it say every person is a child of God? Romans 8:13-14 make it clear that you live by the flesh you die, you live by the Spirit, and THEN you are a son of God. Further, Ephesians 1:5 makes it clear that we are adopted only through Jesus Christ, as in only through placing our faith in Him. Of course God loves all people and wishes none should perish (2 Peter 3:9) and Psalm 145 :9 describes His compassion resting on all He has created. However, the use of “child of God” in the Bible is strictly describing those who have been saved by the grace of God only by placing their faith in Christ Jesus as Savior. I do not mean to stir an argument, I just ask that if you write a Christian article or blog, you base what you write on the Word of God, rather than making what you simply think is right the ultimate authority. Again, I do not mean to point fingers, I just desire that we not sugarcoat the Gospel, and we preach the Word of God as it is, rather than adding to it what sounds a little fluffier and nicer.

    • Anna McCarthy

      Hi there! Thank you for sharing your perspective. When I referenced all of us being God’s children, it stemmed from a few different beliefs….
      First, it comes from verses like, “the Earth is (belongs to) the Lord’s and everything in it….” and other verses with the same idea. I believe we are all his creation and therefore having been created by him, we are all his children.
      I liken it to what my own relationship with my kids looks like. I created them. Just because they don’t do everything I may desire them to do, does not make them any less my children. They are mine. And I still would run to hell and back for them. If not, my love for them would be conditional and my overall character as a parent flawed. I see God very much the same. If we, as humans, know how to love/claim our creations (ie: our children) here on earth – even wayward ones – how better do you think God will love/claim us?
      I also liken myself to being a Jesus follower (hence the name of the blog ;)) and so I try my best to shape my beliefs on the way he lived and the example he set. Jesus did not seem concerned with who were “his” and who were “not his”; his primary concern appeared to be dishing out undeserving amounts of love to everyone he came in contact with – regardless of their behavior or faith level. He showed love equally. He showed mercy equally. He extended acts of healing and kindness equally. In essence, he was an extension of God’s hands; he mirrored for us the love of an incredible father.
      The only exception to this was his harshness towards those who held themselves as gatekeepers to heaven (the Pharisees). They liked to decide who were worthy and who weren’t. They were intensely concerned with correcting those who were not seemingly holy enough or not following the rules of scripture enough.
      Because of Jesus’ harshness towards them, I’ve chosen to avoid that behavior and land in the camp of acting more like Jesus – loving unconditionally and doing my best to mirror the heart of God. A father who loves his creation whether they are behaving properly or not. I find this to be the most in line with the character of Jesus.
      But, for the sake of argument, if there were a line to be drawn between those who are actually “his” and those who are not, God himself would be the only one worthy of doing it. It isn’t (nor should it be) my concern or any human’s for that matter.
      Having that said, I realize our theology may differ and THAT IS OKAY. You are free to hold to your convictions and I am free to hold onto mine. Healthy discussions and mutual respect for eachother’s differences in perspectives are good things. Love to you and thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

      • Keith

        Anna, I like what you say here and the examples you use. I agree we should do our best to emulate Jesus. His overarching messages speak to people of all faiths. To my simple way of thinking, if we follow the examples and words of Jesus, the world will be a much better place. Keith

  • mjmangos

    Hi Anna,
    I like your articles and this one too about problems in the church. I just want to encourage you though, for your own sake and that of your readers, that you would endeavour to be thoroughly Biblical. The Bible is a book of continuing revelation which culminates in the revelation of Jesus Christ. I agree with lifeabundant224 in that we are not all children of God. Even a casual reader of the New Testament would agree that Jesus came to earth for that very reason, to reveal the love of God and invite people into a relationship with Him because sin has separated people from Him. It is true that He sat with sinners and loves people unconditionally, as we the church should also, but it was for the purpose that all should become His children. For that reason he spoke of the necessity of a new birth in John 3 and of the need to receive Him to become a child of God in John 1:12 and of the need to preach the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes (Romans 1:16). If as you state that we are all children of God then there was no need for Jesus to die and rise again and there would be no fear of separation from Him on judgement day. I am in total agreement with you that God’s love needs to be revealed more through His church as it is the only way that people can be encouraged to go deeper with Him to find freedom. You are amazing and your articles are great, but please, do make sure that what you are declaring is what God’s Word is declaring.
    Love and blessings,

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