In a previous article, we discussed how works result from, rather than in, a person’s salvation. Now we turn our attention to what those works should be. The Bible states that as Christians, we are Christ’s representatives (2 Corinthians 5:20) and are called to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). The question naturally arises “what should this look like?” Our purpose in this article is to give an overview of how God expects Christians to be and act, as articulated in scripture. This is not an exhaustive analysis, but rather a starting point for self-examination and further study.
God’s expectations of Christians include both behaviors and attitudes. In other words, it is not just what we do that matters. Our motivations are also important (Matthew 15:8).
As Christians, our existence should glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Jesus also taught that behaving in accordance with His guidance is a tangible expression of our love for Him (John 14:15). Living out these two principles should guide all our actions. Admittedly, this is a high standard that each of us regularly fails to uphold. But the fact that it is difficult does not excuse us from trying. Rather we are called to continually strive for this perfection, even if we will not achieve it in this life. Specific areas of behavior where Christians should reflect God’s glory include:
- Honesty/Integrity: First and foremost, Christians should be known for their honesty and integrity. This even includes the “unimportant” areas. As God’s representatives, we must hold ourselves to His standard, even if it is not convenient or costs us personally (e.g. 1 Peter 3:10, Colossians 3:9-10, Proverbs 19:5).
- Purity: We live in a culture where adhering to traditional definitions of sexual morality is not valued and is often openly mocked. But God is very clear in His standards, and as Christians we are expected to conduct ourselves according to His moral code, regardless of what society says (e.g. Matthew 5:28, Acts 15:20, Ephesians 5:3).
- Speech: The way we talk says a lot about who we are. If our speech is coarse or foul, what kind of representative of Christ are we being? It may seem like a small thing, but the words we use are a clear indicator or who we are, or who we want to be (e.g. Matthew 15:10-11, Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 3:8-10, James 1:26).
- Generosity: As Christians, we should be charitable to others. Our generosity is based on the knowledge that God has been infinitely more generous to us, freely bestowing love and mercy onto us when we did not deserve it (e.g. Acts 20:35, 2 Corinthians 9:7, Proverbs 19:7).
- Evangelism: Christians should seek to share the truth of God’s mercy with others. Without a saving faith in Christ, people will be eternally lost in their sins. Why wouldn’t we share the knowledge of the only “way out” if we truly believe it (e.g. Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 10:33, 1 Peter 3:15)?
- Not hypocritical: Our behaviors should be consistent with our words and beliefs. Few things offend God and man more than hypocrisy. And nothing damages our Christian testimony more (e.g. Romans 12:9, Matthew 15:7-9, Romans 2:3, Titus 1:16).
Living out these behaviors reflects God’s glory and demonstrates obedience to Him. It also serves as a powerful testimony to unbelievers (Matthew 5:16). Conversely, hypocrisy and failing to live them out encourages unbelievers to mock God and turn further away from Him (Romans 2:24).
Even more important than our behaviors are our motivations and attitudes. Behaviors can be faked, but attitudes reflect the true state of our hearts. Attitudes Christians should seek to develop include:
- Loving: The Bible teaches that love for God and others should be the defining characteristic of Christians. It should be central to who and how we are (e.g. John 13:35, 1 John 4:7-8, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, John 15:12-14).
- Forgiving: Closely related to love, Christians should demonstrate an attitude of forgiveness. As people who have been forgiven, we should reflect that same grace to others (e.g. Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 6:9-15, Matthew 18:21-23).
- Humility: The humility that Christ demonstrated is mind-boggling. An eternal, omnipotent God lowering Himself to our level and enduring pain, shame, and torment is a powerful example of how we should seek to never think to highly of ourselves or act as if anyone is “beneath us” (e.g. Romans 12:16, Philippians 2:3-4, James 4:6).
- Positive: Knowing that we have been forgiven from our sins, and are saved in eternity, should give Christians an immense peace of mind. It should also help us maintain a positive attitude and proper perspective when faced with inevitable, but temporal, problems of life (e.g. Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:8-13, Hebrews 13:5, Luke 12:22-26).
- Selflessness: Jesus put the needs of those He loved ahead of His own. He serves as the perfect model of selflessness and Christians are called to reflect that same attitude to each other and to the rest of the world (e.g. 1 Corinthians 10:24, Philippians 2:3-4, 1 Thessalonians 5:15).
It is not popular in today’s society to speak about God’s expectations of right and wrong. Our culture is becoming increasingly relativistic, teaching that we can each decide such questions for ourselves. Advocating for God’s standards is often viewed as close-minded, old-fashioned, or judgmental.
However, right and wrong are not decided by popularity, culture, or majority vote. They are decided by God. And He has clearly communicated His expectations. We may not always live up to them, or even like them. But we should still follow them and encourage others to do so as well. When we do so correctly, we are being obedient, not judgmental. But that is a topic for another article.