2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires.”
I’m sure most of what I say here could be found on some witty list of “Things Christians should stop saying.” I’ve seen links to those posts all over the place, but haven’t really read them. So just in case any of you have a similar experience, I really wanted to share a few things today. I could probably post another one entitled “Gospel Quartet Music Theology“, but I won’t go there for now. The point is, I think so many of us settle for a thin, re-tweeted, “click share”d, un-inspected theology these days. We hear a rallying cry (or meme) of someone we have liked in the past, and assume whatever it says should be taken to heart, and passed along.
To write/say something against them can easily be dis-regarded as the common “cynicism” of young adults today. That’s why I almost didn’t say anything. But just in case it helps someone to rethink something they’ve heard and grow in their relationship with God…here goes nothing.
1. “Don’t pray for a lighter load, pray for a stronger back!” – It sounds good. Certainly there are many of us, especially in the US, who need to stop complaining about small inconveniences as if we’re really suffering. But this phrase was posted publicly on a church sign, in a city where many broken and suffering people drive by. For a church to basically say to anyone driving by, “Suck it up!” , doesn’t seem like the love of Christ we find in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” So go ahead…pray for a lighter load. Jesus knows the load you’re already carrying, and offers to hold it for you.
2. “Judge not, lest you be judged” – It was written to a friend who’s trying to clean up his life, and asked people to be more thoughtful about what they post on his wall. Obviously he was killing a vibe, and the friends who noticed didn’t like it. I’m reminded here of Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Beginning to follow Christ means you’ll probably have people who don’t want to change, who are unwilling to be close to you as you change. That’s okay. Show them love, and keep doors of relationship open. But don’t fall to the “God’s Word says not to judge” routine. Because actually, the Bible says quite a bit about holding each other accountable. Yes, in Matthew 7 and Luke 6, Jesus does talk to his followers and tell them not to judge. He’s pointing out that we cannot have the same expectations of people who don’t know God, as we do for those who do. It’s also a reminder that we don’t “think of ourselves as above” others, because we are all sinners. God alone does the judging of worth (we’ve all been declared valuable enough to receive his mercy), and eternity. But there are so many scriptures about the transformation Jesus wants to bring to our lives, the Love of God that changes our mind and behaviors, and the sin we are called to both be set free from, and proclaim the freedom for others from. )(1 Corinthians 5:12-13, John 7:24, 1 Timothy 4:2, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3) So go ahead…live a transformed life, and proclaim the freedom from sin God has made available to others…in love.
3. “God will not give you more than you can handle.” – This one’s hard to confess, because I’d love so much for it to be true. Unfortunately, it’s a false teaching. One that should be easy for us to realize, as God’s own son was given a death sentence on the cross. Not to mention it makes it sound like these horrible things are given “by” God, instead of simply allowed as the freedom to sin spreads brokenness throughout our world. Thousands upon thousands have died for Christ over the years, and it wasn’t because they really wanted to die. It was because they were willing to follow Christ, even when it WAS more than they could handle. There is a scripture, 1 Corinthians 10:13, that tells us God will not allow us to be TEMPTED beyond what we can bear. But that’s a different topic. Jesus told his followers, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves…” (Matt. 10:16) Not like superheroes, and not like people who can handle any burden easily because of the supernatural abilities given us by the Holy Spirit. So if the tears are falling lately, as you’re suffering under what seems to be an unbearable burden, take heart. It doesn’t mean you’re not a good Christian if you feel like things are horrible right now. It means you live in a broken world where sin and evil are being revealed as the horrible things they are. There IS hope, and Christ has proclaimed that justice is coming; that redemption is on it’s way; that all the current sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). But don’t feel pressure to pretend everything is okay…it’s not. So go ahead, lean on your brothers and sisters…allow yourself to be held by Christ as you suffer…and be there for those who are suffering. We need Christ to come fully…and until then He is coming to the world even now, through you.
There are quite a few more on this list….but there are plenty of places already calling ’em out. These are just a few that’ve been on my heart this week. 🙂