Correct Your Christianese

Correct Your ChristianeseThere are many expressions that have become common in Christian vernacular. Sometimes we can use these phrases for so long that we forget what they may sound like from the outside. It’s good to reexamine what we say from time to time; to rethink sayings that could easily be misunderstood or simply seen as lacking sincerity. Here we have a few phrases that may need to be retired, or at least rethought.

“Christians aren’t perfect, they’re just forgiven.”

What it is supposed to mean:
We as Christians are no better or more worthy of salvation than the rest of the world. We are saved by the grace of God alone and, as such, are in no position to look down on anyone.

What people think we mean by it:
The complete opposite. Without understanding the original intention and context of this quote-turned-bumper-sticker, it can sound extraordinarily arrogant. As if we were saying “We’re not perfect, except that we are, ‘cause God forgave us, and that makes us perfect, unlike you, who is still not forgiven!” Now, certainly not everyone – or even most people – who use this phrase mean anything beyond its original intent in all sincerity. Whether it was meant for good or ill, the issue here is about perception. Regardless of the best intentions of the speaker, this easily misconstrued saying, when combined with the fact that people often feel judged and ostracized by the church anyway, doesn’t make a winning combination.

Where it could be reapplied:
It might be a nice word of encouragement to a discouraged Christian that feels like they are failing. Remind them that none of us are perfect; we are all hanging on to the same grace and forgiveness and just need to keep moving forward and relying on Christ to get us through each day. In regard to sharing this one with someone who isn’t a Christian, however, the situation that calls for it will be rare…much like seeing a unicorn; it may never happen, and we need to be ok with that.

“God never gives you more than you can handle.”

What it is supposed to mean:
No matter how bad things get, God will be with you. When your strength fails, his will remain; when you falter, he will be steadfast; trust in him, not in yourself.

What people think we mean by it:
If you are a Christian, then life will be smooth sailing; God loves you, so he isn’t going to let anything really bad happen to you.

One really must wonder how many young Christians have had serious crises of faith because they were told that everything was going to be fine from then on, and it wasn’t. It can leave them wondering: was I lied to? Did God fail me? Am I doing something wrong? The Bible paints a certain picture of what we should expect in the way of trials and hardships, and this phrase paints a very different picture. One can’t help wondering what the apostles and other martyrs would make of this well-intentioned quote as we lovingly cross-stitch it on to throw pillows. Some may say that those people lived in a different time and it’s a different world today, but the underground churches of North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Afghanistan might feel differently on the matter. What about the man whose son just died of cancer? What about the boy who lost his mom in a car accident? The examples go on and on. These are things that are a lot more than we can handle, these are the things that will break us if we try to bear them alone. The letters of Paul instruct us to prepare for trials and not be surprised when they come because the times when we have nothing else to cling to are the times we hold tighter to God. We can let these circumstances drive us away from Jesus or let them draw us closer, but we can’t be blinded by thinking everything is always going to be perfect. Things aren’t going to be perfect and Jesus never said that they would be. He said he would wipe the tears from our eye, and that, in him, we can find a peace that is beyond understanding.

Where it could be reapplied:
This one may require more of a rephrasing than a reapplication. Instead of saying God won’t give us more than we can handle, say that when things become too much and you are ready to give up, find your peace in knowing that God can handle what we can’t. And that no matter how bad things get, he will never leave us nor forsake us.

“I’m not sure, but I’ll pray about it.”

What it is supposed to mean:
I will seek the council and wisdom of God to guide me in this decision.

What we often mean by it:
I don’t want to do this, but I don’t want to seem rude either, so rather than simply saying no, I’m going stall for some time, and say it later.

It is actually a very good practice to bring decisions before God and to seek wisdom higher than our own, but sometimes we should just give a straight answer. Questions like, “What career should I follow?” “What ministry should I serve in?” deserve thoughtful prayer and meditation, but when someone asks, “Can you help me move on Friday?” maybe not so much.

Where it could be reapplied:
The key here is simply to make sure that if we say we are going to pray about something or for someone, that we actually do. There is incredible power in prayer, but only when we actually do it. This phrase doesn’t need to go anywhere; we just need to stop using it when we don’t mean it, which may also mean that we need to start meaning it more often.

Rick is a freelance writer and worship leader. He blogs at Culturemakerblog.com and tweets @Letsmakeadeal26.

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