The ministry I work for is about to send over 100 19-24 year old college students out across the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, Belize and Peru where they'll lead mission experiences for junior high and high school students and their adult leaders all summer long. They are a wonderful group of people who are energetic, idealistic, enthusiastic and amazingly faithful Christ followers. As we prepare them for all the details there is one caution that is oft repeated. Be ready to be mistreated by church people. Often they're shocked to hear this warning but those who are veterans of previous summers confirm it.
The most difficult situations these young people will face are often triggered by the Christian adults who chaperon their youth on these trips. Christians who belittle our young leaders for being too young. Christians who angrily insist on getting their own way in the midst of a mission trip. Christians who threaten to quit early and go home with their young people because they're dissatisfied about something. Christians who insist they'll sue our ministry because the experience has disappointed them in some way. Christians who will make some of our enthusiastic and idealistic young people wonder why they would want to associate with Christians if this is how they behave!
I don't expect people who claim to be followers of Christ to be perfect. I do, however, expect them to be civil. I expect common courtesy and polite language and an attempt to understand all sides of a situation. I don't expect Christ followers to always be "nice" (whatever that means), but I do expect them to handle frustrations, disappointments, anger and dissatisfaction with us or anyone they encounter with graciousness that befits someone carrying Christ's name. A quick reading of 1 Corinthians 13 might provide a decent outline for how we who follow Christ should consider behaving in relationship to other people. That's my sincere hope.
For now, though, I'll continue to train these wonderful Christ followers to be prepared for all sorts of misbehavior and mistreatment at the hands of Christians. I've witnessed too much over my years in the church to do otherwise. Still, I hope and pray for the day when those who carry the name of Christ might actually live and look like him!!