Do God’s people every behave poorly? Yes. There are times we behave poorly. As a Christian, there are times I behave poorly toward God by refusing to do His will (James 4:17). There are times I behave poorly toward other Christians by not modeling the love or grace or truth that should characterize a growing believer. And, there are times I behave poorly toward unbelievers by not modeling the love or grace or truth that reveals God to them. Though I have eternal life by faith in Christ (John 3:16; 10:28), and am among the Lord’s righteous (2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9), I still sin (1 John 1:8, 10). As a believer, Solomon understood “there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Eccl. 7:20). There are numerous biblical examples of believers who behaved poorly.
Old Testament examples include:
- Lot’s daughters got him drunk and slept with him (Gen. 19:30-38).
- Judah slept with Tamar, assuming she was a prostitute (Gen. 38:13-18).
- Aaron led the Israelites in idol worship (Ex. 32:1-6).
- Samson slept with prostitutes (Judg. 16:1-4).
- David had an affair with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah (2 Sam. 11:1-21).
- Solomon ended his life worshipping idols (1 Kings 11:1-10).
New Testament examples include:
- James and John (nicknamed Boanerges, or “Sons of Thunder”; Mark 3:17) wanted to call fire down from heaven to kill the residents of a Samaritan city (Luke 9:51-55).
- The mother of James and John requested special treatment for her sons, that they might have a place of prominence seated on thrones to the right and left of Jesus (Matt. 20:20-21). This upset the other disciples (Matt. 20:24).
- The disciples tried to send away a woman who had come to Jesus for help with her demon possessed daughter (Matt. 15:21-23).
- The disciples tried to prevent a man from doing the Lord’s work (Luke 9:49-50).
- The disciples argued amongst themselves as to who was greatest in the kingdom (Luke 9:46).
- Peter argued with Jesus and tried to prevent Him from going to the cross (Matt. 16:21-22). The Lord reproached Peter sharply (Matt. 16:23).
- Peter denied the Lord three times (Matt. 26:34-35; 69-75).
- Paul and Barnabas had a sharp disagreement that resulted in their separation as friends in ministry (Acts 15:36-39).
- The Christians at Corinth were guilty of quarrels (1 Cor. 1:11), jealousy and strife (1 Cor. 3:1-3), fornication (1 Cor. 5:1-2), selfishness and drunkenness (1 Cor. 11:21).
- Peter engaged in hypocrisy and was publicly rebuked by Paul (Gal. 2:11-14).
- The Apostle John was twice corrected for worshipping an angel (Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9). John knew the depravity of his own heart and how easy it is to fall into idolatry, and he cautioned other Christians to “guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
Five of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3 behaved poorly by not doing God’s will, and the Lord Jesus reprimanded them.
- Church at Ephesus – “you have left your first love” (Rev 2:4).
- Church at Pergamum – “you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality” (Rev 2:14).
- Church at Thyatira – “you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols” (Rev 2:20).
- Church at Sardis – “I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God” (Rev 3:2).
- Church at Laodicea – “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot” (Rev 3:15).
Though there are numerous examples of believers, both in the Old and New Testament, who behaved poorly toward God, other believers, and unbelievers, this is never what God expects from us. As His children, God calls us to live holy and righteous lives (Tit. 2:11-14), to manifest love (1 Thess. 4:9), grace (Eph. 4:29), and truth to others (Eph. 4:15). When we fail, we should humbly confess our sins and move on (1 John 1:9), as we keep striving to know God and walk in His will (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18).
Steven R. Cook, M.Div.