“In some countries, the term Christian is synonymous with American and carries with it negative connotations – it says more about one’s political beliefs and excesses than personal values,” Dana told me. “The term Christ-follower describes a Person and a lifestyle.”
Upon hearing that, I was convicted through the years to make sure that my life resembles a Christ-follower, and that I follow a Person, not the rules and expectations of a political association, a religious denomination, or a long-held tradition. So, in an attempt to share with you my own convictions, let me give you this list I’ve come up with on the 10 things real Christ-following women shouldn’t do, so we aren’t living out the negative stereotypes others have of Christians.
1. Ignore the Needs of Others
Here in America it’s easy to be comfortable and live in excess even though people are suffering around us — whether it’s across town or across the world. In James 2:15-17we are warned against being all talk and no action: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Furthermore, when a rich man asked Jesus what good thing he must do to get eternal life, Jesus told him to obey God’s laws including “love your neighbor as yourself.” When this man claimed to keep all of these laws, Jesus challenged that love and said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me”(Matthew 9:21). It’s a pretty tall order – one that few of us (myself included) can follow. But to be a Christ-follower, we have to be willing to lose it all to gain Him.
Jesus warned us about the lure of material possessions and how they could interfere with our priorities. He wanted His followers to be investing in their eternal home, not amassing huge collections here on earth to horde and keep to ourselves.
In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” A Christ-follower invests in kingdom work, eternal priorities, and the things that will outlast this earth, like souls rather than stuff. For you and me that means if all of our investments are this side of heaven and our homes are so nice we don’t want anyone dirty or smelly sitting on our new couch, or we can’t stand the thought of getting our freshly manicured nails dirty in order to help someone, we are not living – and thinking – like a Christ-follower.
Have you ever seen a well-loved child worry about his next meal, or his physical protection or his future stability? Jesus wanted His followers to be secure in His love and care for them like children who have no worries because they know they are loved and protected. Yet women are experts at worrying about the unknown. Even Christian women.
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear… Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”(Matthew 6:25-26). When you stress and worry you are saying to others that you have no one acting on your behalf, no one to help you through your ordeal, and no one who can move mountains to come through for you. When you exercise faith and trust in a sovereign God who can take care of the details of your life, you are living like a Christ-follower.
Okay, I’m guilty. Over the years, I’ve obsessed over makeup, skin care products, my weight, working out, pink clothing, cute shoes, Cinderella dolls, should I keep going? I have run after many things, all the while attending my Bible studies and being a good Christian girl. It isn’t until the last couple of decades that I have had to take Christ’s words seriously: “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). If we’re not supposed to love our own family more than God, then certainly we aren’t to obsess over things or activities either.
Women are experts at obsessing. We can obsess over neatness, over cleanliness, over avoiding germs, over our looks, or our houses, or our husbands, or our children. Whatever we pour our hearts into, whatever occupies our thoughts and desires, whatever becomes a priority in our lives over than that of loving God, is something we obsess over. This is also considered unfaithfulness because putting anything (food, causes, friendships, dating relationships, fiancée or husband, children, job, career, success) higher than God on our list of desires turns that thing (or person) into a god that we seek. God is a jealous God. He hates when we run toward, obsess after, or seek for anything above Him (Matthew 6:33). A Christ-follower is just that – one who follows hard after Christ, not anything or anyone else.
Through the years I’ve received emails from Christian women telling me the circumstances of their hurt or betrayal and asking for justification to not forgive. I can’t find it anywhere in the Word of God and certainly not in the words of Jesus.
Christ said the world would know His followers by their love. And the greatest evidence of love is forgiveness – even when we feel wronged, betrayed, and taken advantage of. Even when someone doesn’t specifically ask for our forgiveness or show remorse. Even when we don’t feel they deserve our forgiveness. In Matthew 6, Jesus taught us to pray “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (verse 12). True Christ-followers realize they are personally not worthy of Christ’s forgiveness, but because they are so grateful for it, they freely extend the same forgiveness to others. Christ-followers forgive – without exception – as they have been forgiven.
It happens. We gossip about others in the form of “sharing a prayer request” or voicing our concern about another person’s “fall from grace.” But a Christ-follower is burdened by the sins and frustrations of others and lifts them up in prayer, without hanging them out to dry. Scripture instructs: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”(Ephesians 4:29).
Jesus said the second greatest commandment, next to loving God with all your heart soul, mind, and strength, was to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Love doesn’t gossip. It doesn’t run down another’s reputation. Instead “it always protects”(1 Corinthians 13:7, NASB). A Christ-follower speaks words that Jesus would. And Jesus didn’t gossip.