Originally Published March 29, 2014
Have you ever noticed we use a lot of expressions without giving much thought to their origin or what they really mean? For example, why do we use the phrase, “in a (pretty) pickle” to mean “experiencing a difficult situation”?
Here are six cliches we often use as Christians that could stand to be replaced or at least re-thought:
1. Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words.
It’s necessary. Use words. While our behavior should certainly prove out our testimony, nobody’s going to see us working at a soup kitchen or eschewing barhopping and somehow magically understand that he has broken God’s law and needs to repent and put His faith in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of his sin unto eternal life. That has to be explained. Clearly. By us. From the Bible. With words.
If the person who died wasn’t saved, unfortunately, he’s in a place of eternal torment and suffering, and no amount of asking God to rest his soul will give him a respite. Worse, when Christians say this about someone they know was not saved, they reinforce the false idea many lost people have that the dead are “resting” in some sort of spiritual coma, or that they simply cease to exist (annihilationism) , or that everybody automatically goes to Heaven (universalism).
Maybe “I’m praying for you,” or “I’m bringing you dinner,” would be better.
and speaking of which…
3. Sending positive thoughts/energy your way.
Thoughts and energy are not things you can wrap up in brown paper, haul down to the post office, and mail to somebody. You can’t send them and the other person can’t receive them, and they can’t actually accomplish anything, and everybody knows this. But, commendably, atheists, New Agers, and other non-Christians wanted to have something compassionate to say to people who are hurting, and since they can’t say, “I’m praying for you,” this is the best they can do.
Christians, we’ve got something better. We can say, “I’m praying for you.” We have an open line to the almighty God of the universe who is listening to us and can actually do something about the situation. Pray for that hurting person. Put your arms around her. Listen to her. Do whatever you can to help. Show her Jesus, not empty words.
4. Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.
The only people running around today saying that Christianity is not a religion are Christians. Everybody else in the world considers Christianity a religion. And up until this little humdinger materialized, so did Christians.
Usually, what people mean by this is that true Christianity is not an institutionalized system of rote obedience to dead and meaningless rituals. It’s a reconciliation with the only true God by means of being redeemed by His Son, Jesus Christ, who propitiated and expiated God’s wrath against us in our sin through His death, burial, and bodily resurrection, and is, therefore, a dynamic and living interpersonal relationship.
But that’s too long to fit into a tweet or a hashtag.
Our relationship with God through Christ is our religion- the only true religion. And that’s not a bad thing.
5. Don’t judge someone just because he sins differently than you do.
I find this one confusing, but I think the sentiment behind this is something along the lines of, “I may be an adulterer, but you’re not any less of a sinner just because you only tell the occasional white lie. Therefore, you have no right to call me to repentance.”
This is a lovely casserole of simultaneous truth and falsehood, and it all hinges on the word “judging,” which has been tossed around so much that even Christians scarcely know what it means anymore. No, we’re not to berate someone for his sin while pompously pretending we’re sin-free. All have sinned, after all, and if we say we have no sin, we lie. But does that mean we should never call anyone to repentance? Of course not! We’re to walk in repentance ourselves and seek to help the lost find forgiveness in Christ and help our Christian brothers and sisters who have fallen into sin to be reconciled to Christ. Scripture doesn’t say we can never call people out of sin because we have a log in our own eye. It says first remove the log and then help your brother.
Our desire is to be healthy, wealthy, and blissfully comfortable with never a family problem, fender bender, lost love, or bankruptcy. God’s desire is for us to be holy. He wants to root the sin out of our lives, show us how to be completely dependent on Him, lead us to trust Him more, build our character and endurance, give us boldness to share the gospel, make us kinder and more merciful, teach us what it means to extend grace and forgive. Most of those lessons are learned only through hardship and suffering. Just ask the apostles or the early church martyrs or our brothers and sisters being persecuted across the globe today.
What are some expressions Christians commonly use that you think we should replace or re-think?