Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why Christian Cliche's Aren't Helpful

We have all heard them. We have probably even used them. They are the cute little Christian sayings that we give to people when things are not going their way. Or they might be those Scripture quotations that we like to pull out of the air to be used for moments of wisdom. They are what show up on T-shirts or coffee cups, or even on a cute little plaque that sits on your desk or hangs on the wall. They are the Christian Cliche's. The more I think about them, the more I just don't think cute little Christian sayings are really that helpful to people. At least, not helpful without a context or explanation.

Some of you know about our housing situation. At the end of January, we moved to Ohio so I could take a senior pastor position at a church, Cornerstone Bible Church. We are now a few months into being here and our house still has not sold back in Kansas. We keep praying, many of you are praying, but for some reason the house just has not sold. In the meantime, we have not been able to put down the roots we so desire here in Ohio. We have been in a short-term rental, which has just sold. We have to be out in a few weeks and so we are moving this Friday to another short-term rental.

During this process, we continue to look for a home. We thought we had one a few weeks ago that would have been perfect for us. It was the size we were looking for and the location that wanted to be. In addition to that, it was a bank-owned property, so it was quite a bit cheaper than other homes. We were actually pre-qualified for it even without our house selling in Kansas (I never thought I would have a winter home in Kansas and a summer home in Ohio, just kidding). A few days after submitting the bid, we found out that we were the lowest of three bids (even though we offered 6k more than the asking price). To say the least, we were bummed.

And through this entire process, well-meaning people continue to say well-meaning things to us. By far, the thing we have heard more than anything else is this: "God must have something better for you." I understand what people mean by this statement, but in reality, what they mean couldn't be further from the truth. When people say that, I would venture to guess most people mean, "God has a better house for you." This is where it really doesn't work. I have two reasons why christian cliche's like this are not helpful.

First, They Give False Hope! 

Maybe God's will is that we will never have a house in Ohio. Maybe He wants us to rent for years. Maybe our house will never sell. Maybe God's will for us is that we do live in a small 3-bedroom, 1,000 sq. ft. house. Maybe the better that God has for us has nothing to do with the physical, but has to do with our hearts. In this process, I have been thinking about Paul's comments about contentment.
"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11-13)
Maybe what God wants in this process and the better that He has for our family is to LEARN to be content in all things, the abundance & the not. I get it! We are praying that if God needs to do something in our hearts in this process, that He would do it in his timing!

Christian cliche's like this to newer or younger believers give them false hope that if we obey Jesus, He will make us healthy, wealthy, and wise. As David Platt has written in Radical, we have been duped into a thinking of a Christian spin on the American Dream. Are we ready to believe Jesus, go where He leads us, and when we get there, we have nothing the world says is important? I want to say I am! But often I feel like the disciples, "I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!"

Second, They Often Take Scripture Out Of Context.

Do you see that phrase used in Philippians 4:13, used above? This is just one example and I could give so many more. What did Paul mean by "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." It certainly did not mean that you could play a good football game. In the context it had to do with living life in plenty or want. He had learn to be content in any situation God would have him in. Maybe that sounds nit-picky to you, but the power of the Bible are found in the right meaning of the Bible. If you fail to get the interpretation of the Scripture right, you fail to have the power of the Word of God.

So, what to do? If you feel like you need to use some sort of Christian Cliche, spend the time with the person and have a thorough conversation with them. Please don't think you can just pull one more bullet from the chamber and shoot it at the individual and it will help everything they are going through. Take the time and explain the Scriptures to them. Counsel them with the Word!

1 comment:

  1. Great to hear your thoughts, brother. I appreciate seeing a practical faith and following of Jesus in your everyday life. I've learned much from watching and listening as you've lived life in the context of loving and trusting Jesus, in the "small" and "big" things. From why K should do his best in baseball to what you should be thinking amid your housing trilemma (I call it a trilemma because you've got 2 rentals there and a home here). Miss having you around but enjoy getting my dose of Thad through this blog and Cornerstone's audio files.

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