My friend Lynn was so excited she could hardly contain herself. She was starting her new job in just a few days. After 10 years in corporate America, Lynn had had enough of the office politics. No longer caring about the money, Lynn felt that she would fit in much better working for a church.
“I can’t wait to work with Christians all day. It will be such a relief,” she told me when we met for lunch.
I didn’t have the heart to burst her bubble, and I didn’t have to. Within three months Lynn and I were having lunch again, and her tune had changed.
“What is wrong with these people? They are worse than my co-workers at my corporate job. I thought they were Christians. My boss uses me; my co-workers talk down to me, and the pastor’s wife is the worst of all of them.”
Lynn’s story is common. Many people think that because someone professes to be a Christian, it means that they are healthy.
This is foolish. Even Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16).
Here are 7 signs that you are dealing with a toxic Christian.
# 1. They manipulate scripture.
Whether it’s a toxic mother who reminds you to honor her or a toxic husband who uses scripture to get you to submit, many toxic Christians will twist scripture to serve their own agenda.
#2. They are hypocritical.
Toxic Christians will be the first to remind you of God’s law and where you have fallen short, but the same rules don’t seem to apply to them.
#3. They tear others down.
Think all Christians walk in love? Think again. Many toxic Christians struggle with insecurity and find the only way they can feel good is by tearing others down.
#4. They have manipulative behavior.
This type of behavior can range from justifying, defensiveness, being judgemental, blaming, and controlling, just to name a few. God is the potter and can mold us into whatever He wishes, but no Christian has that right!
#5. They cause division and strife.
Proverbs 6:16-19 couldn’t be more clear: There are six things that the Lordhates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. If any Christian among you is trying to divide the Body of Christ, consider them toxic.
#6. They have one foot in the world.
Have you ever met a Christian who is praising God on Sunday and hanging out in the bars on Saturday? I’m not referring to new Christians who are still growing in their faith. I’m referring to the toxic ones who continue to cause others to stumble and bring reproach to the name of God by the way they live. Immodest dress, foul language, and worldly behavior are not only signs that you are not fruitful Christians but they are also likely toxic to the name of Jesus.
#7. All other signs of toxic behavior.
There are common traits that constitute toxic behavior regardless of a person’s religious belief. Traits like narcissism, lack of empathy, inability to apologize, passive aggressive behavior, emotional blackmail, negativity and self-centeredness are some traits to name just a few that would describe ALL toxic people, including Christians.
When we invite Jesus into our lives, our spirits are renewed instantly (Ezekiel 36:26) but our souls take a lifetime to get sanctified (Phil 2:12).
Our soul includes our mind, will, and emotions, and depending on the toxicity we had before we came to Christ, there can still be a lot to work out.
It takes a willingness to die daily and bring your junk to the cross for sanctification. If the Christians you are encountering isn’t addressing their toxic issues, there are some things you can do.
For starters, pray for them. Pray that their heart and mind would be open to the Holy Spirit’s power.
Secondly, I encourage you to apply Matthew 18:15:
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”