I was reading my devotional one morning, when I happened upon a third century quote from the African minister St. Cyprian: He noted the crime and chaos around him, but added, “Yet in the midst of it, I have found a quiet and holy people. . . . They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are Christians.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Is this the reputation of the Church today? Acts 2: 44 – 47a says, of the early church, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” They shared, they praised God, and reaped a good reputation.

In the last 20 years or so, I have heard Christians espouse doctrines that have no biblical basis. One elderly woman at a rally said, “God is separating the sheep from the goats.” When asked, she said, “I’m a goat,” not realizing that Jesus, the Good Shepherd values the sheep.

Others seem to have adopted the mindset of “the end justifies the means,” some pro-life protesters to yell lies: “The doctor will rape you” or “No one will ever love you.” Some now lie about the election results, as absurd as protesting the results of the Super Bowl. Some support the Crusades, when force is never promoted or used by Jesus, Paul or Peter.

I have heard speakers and singers come out with statements saying “Don’t look at me, look at Christ,” relinquishing any accountability for their actions, forgetting, as is stated in 2 Corinthians 3, that we are “living epistles” – in a sense the “word made flesh.” As terribly flawed as we are, Christians are to strive to be more like Christ, even as Paul said, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”

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Too often, I see Christians who are mean spirited. It could be resisting polite requests to follow mask mandates or possibly joining those who harassed parents walking their masked children to school, accusing the parents of abuse and even rape. We see them joining in with chants of “F--- Biden!” We see them supporting the rhetoric of hate and hypocrisy. Perhaps they claim to love Israel, and yet hate Jews in their own community. They claim to love a Jewish Jesus, but promote the stereotypes or deny his heritage. Too many support candidates who attack immigrants, minorities, and women. And even though the Hebrew Bible or “Old Testament” differs from the “New,” there is nothing in the ministry of Christ that simply abolishes principles of the old on social justice, as when Micah proclaims, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

My Christian father wanted to be involved in my grade school. Unlike the disruptive protesters at today’s school board meetings, even here, he became president of the PTA. I attended one meeting, seeing him stand and speak with dignity, not self-righteousness or anger. I wasn’t a Christian then, but I respected him, as did the rest of the members of that committee. A living epistle.

Interested in a broad range of issues, including social and faith issues, Brickner serves as a regular contributor to the Forum’s opinion page. She is a retired English instructor, having taught in Michigan and Minnesota.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.