Question: "What does the Bible say about Christian behavior?"
Answer: When we talk about “Christian” behavior, we are talking about the behavior of those who have accepted, by faith, Jesus Christ as their Savior and thus are indwelt with His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9), making it possible for them to serve God. Examples of Christian behavior are woven throughout Scripture. Indeed, our Savior Himself spoke at length about the way we are to behave toward others, friends and enemies. More than that, however, the life He lived, accentuated by His love and compassion for the lost, provides the consummate example of what Christian behavior should look like.
Christians are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Ephesians 2:10). And these last four words “to do good works” epitomize the behavior that glorifies God and makes Christ real to others. Granted, there are obstacles in our daily lives that can encumber our minds and hinder our spiritual progress, but only if we let them. Nonetheless, Christians are called to live lives that are “holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1), and exemplary Christian behavior that allows us to fully commit ourselves to serving the Lord is made possible as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit who enables us to do the Father’s will (Romans 8:9). Indeed, “the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).
Christians are a chosen people, belonging to God so that we may declare His praises (1 Peter 2:9). To “declare His praises,” then, it is essential that we spend time in His Word not just so we can learn how to behave in Christian fashion, but also so we can battle against the schemes of Satan. As the apostle Paul pointed out, without this biblical knowledge we are not only subject to buying in to every new teaching that comes along, but we can also fall prey to “the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). However, knowledge alone is not enough; we are called to do more than to know and believe. Christians are to be “doers of the Word” (James 1:22). As the apostle James informs us, we are deceiving ourselves if we think we are spiritual by only hearing the Word. Hearing is not the same as doing. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17, 26). Faith must be demonstrated by actions.
The “actions” that glorify our Father in heaven are those that bear much fruit (John 15:8). This is, in fact, how we show we are His disciples. Indeed, the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)—should be the hallmark of Christian behavior, especially love. Yet our tendency is to sometimes look down on unbelievers or those whose lifestyles are not in sync with our Christian faith, and this is where the Christian life can be challenging. It is easy to show love to those who walk as we do. It’s not always so easy to be kind to those who ridicule our beliefs, show contempt for our Savior, or make a mockery of the institutions that Christians hold sacred. Yet Christ taught us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Recall how He dealt with the woman caught in adultery. Her captors wanted her dead; our Savior showed compassion even though He was the One who would have to die for her (and our) sinful behavior (John 8:11). Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), not to condemn them (John 3:17), and if Christ did not come to condemn sinners, neither should Christians.
Christian behavior includes heeding Jesus’ call for us to be His witnesses to “the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). We are to share the gospel, which Paul defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The validity of our witness is in how we live our lives. In the second half of Ephesians (chapters 4-6), Paul discusses Christian behavior which can best be summed up in these few words: “Be imitators of God…and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Paul urged the Romans to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices” (Romans 12:2). This, ultimately, is the essence of true Christian behavior – surrendering our hearts and yielding our bodies to Christ so He might continue God’s work through us. We are to be beacons of light in a dark world, using our spiritual gifts to advance His kingdom. It is living here on earth the way Jesus lived when He was here. It also means living to please one Person – God. We do this when we abide in His Word and then live it out as we are enabled by His Spirit, just as our Savior did until He took His last breath. As He was dying on the cross, Christ looked out at His executioners and asked His Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Jesus was doing more than fulfilling prophecy and making “intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12), He was practicing what He preached (Luke 6:27-28).