I say "non-Christian" because for many reasons, Christian culture looks down on them. They have not been considered traditional Christian behaviors. But one of the big reasons we're losing our voice in today's culture is that we don't understand and master these critical habits. Here's the list:
1) Confrontation: Old Testament prophets and early church leaders weren't afraid to call people out. When it comes to the gospel, the stakes are too high to settle. Paul trained Timothy to be gracious, but be firm. It's time we got back to raising the standard in our behavior, our commitment, our attitudes, and our excellence. Be gracious and be loving. But when evil happens, or a brother's behavior is out of line, we can't be afraid to confront.
2) Conflict: Speaking the truth invariably creates conflict because someone won't like it. So we have a choice – either stand up or shrink back. We don't have to be jerks or control freaks. But there are times when we do have to be bold. Just ask the Coptic-Christians being persecuted in the Middle East. The Bible says that "Iron sharpens iron" – but that only happens when the two pieces of iron slam against each other.
3) Be Ruthless: Be ruthless in one important area: Yourself. Be ruthless about your commitment to Christ. Be ruthless about your intellectual growth. Be ruthless about finishing well. One of the biggest areas we should be ruthless about is our time. How much time do you spend complaining about your problems to people who can't help you solve them? How much time do you talk when you should be doing? When it comes to others, be gracious. But when it comes to you and your time, be ruthless.
4) Judge: We've really screwed up this one. When the Bible talks about judgement, it's talking about people, not behavior, quality of work, or results. We can't possibly judge the motivation of someone's heart or their standing before God. But can absolutely judge external results. In the false name of "not judging" we've allowed employees to do shabby work, projects to be ineffective, and doctrine to be compromised. Perhaps most of all, we've allowed pastors and Christian leaders to disregard moral standards without reproach, which erodes the Church's moral authority within the culture.
5) Say No: Warren Buffett says "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything." Obviously, you can take it too far, but when you don't say no, you spend your life focused on other people's priorities, not your priorities. Certainly we want to help people and be servants. But if God has called you to accomplish something with your life, you'll have to say no to many things. In fact, learn to say no even to good things, so you can accomplish great things.
Obviously, in all of these areas you can be extreme and exhibit negative behaviors. But just read the Bible to see how each of these areas were mastered in ways that allowed people to follow God's call and accomplish great things.
Phil Cooke, Ph.D. – filmmaker and media consultant at Cooke Pictures, in Burbank, California. Find out more at cookepictures.com.
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