Christians need to stop saying these things

miscellaneous Theology / Biblical Studies

Like nails on the chalk board, there are some things I wish my Christian peers (and everyone, I guess) would stop saying. I rarely post lists like this, but you can’t always rely on induction. Now I am posting one.

1: “This is important. You’re going to be dead a lot longer than alive.”

Except you’re not, if the Christian creed is true. We believe in this thing called the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting. You should look it up some time. If you want to say that something really matters and has eternal consequences, find some other way to do it.

2: “God won’t give you any more than you can handle.”

Says who? God lets people get tortured to death. Yesterday I read a horrific news story about how the Islamic State conducted a mass beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya. God lets people abandon their faith and their marriage. God lets people crack under pressure and commit suicide. On what authority can you possibly tell people this? Is this what you’d tell the martyrs as the lions chomped down on their neck? “Don’t worry, you can handle this or God wouldn’t have given it to you!” You’re not reassuring people with the truth when you say that God won’t give them something they can’t handle. You’re lying to them and setting them up for personal catastrophe, and at the same time giving yourself a reason not to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff for them when they realise they can’t handle things.

3: “Are you saying God can’t…” (aka “My God is big enough, isn’t yours?”)

In conversations about the origin of the universe and life: “Are you saying God can’t just create everything all at once, fully developed, and he needs to use billions of years?”

In conversations about charismatic theology and spiritual gifts: “Are you trying to limit God and put him in a box? Are you saying God can’t move in people’s lives and enable them to move in the supernatural?”

In conversations about gender in church: “Are you limiting God and saying that he can’t use men/women [delete as appropriate] to do X?”

Stop it. These and many other conversations have nothing to do with what God is capable of. God is able to turn us all into chickens, but that has nothing to do with whether or not we should accept chicken theology as true.

4: “My prayers go out to those who…”

For a while I just assumed that this was something non-religious people said when they wanted to sound pious when people were suffering some sort of disaster even though they don’t really pray at all. “My prayers to those in the blizzard right now, I hope you make it through.” But then I started seeing Christians say it. What? How can you even put those words together? I offer prayers to God. Yeah, I know, some Christians pray to departed saints, I think that’s wrong and that’s a whole other issue. But why would you send prayers to those who are going through hard times? They can’t hear you. Pray for them, not to them.

5: “Follow your God-given passion and don’t look back!”

Huh. Funny how when people don’t believe in God but just follow unrealistic goals because they’re passionate about them and end up in the poorhouse, they lacked God-given wisdom, but when a Christian is set on doing exactly the same thing, you tell them it’s a God-given passion and they need to step out in faith. I’m a living example of why that may be a stupid idea. Sometimes wisdom is a bucket of cold water dumped on what you think is God-given passion before you do something foolhardy with long-term consequences.

6: “THE GOSPEL IS AT STAKE!”

Did you find out that someone with the chutzpah to call himself a Christian holds a different view of hell from you? “THE GOSPEL IS AT STAKE!” Does (so-called) brother so-and-so think that God’s knowledge of future human choices is different from what you think it is? Well don’t just sit there! “STAND UP FOR THE GOSPEL!” Did you find out that traitorous cow Sally thinks the Bible teaches that women like you and her have different roles in the church from men? But that’s attacking your view of people’s roles and calling, and that means she’s attacking equality, and Jesus is pro-equality, and the Gospel is (now) all about equality, so Sally’s attacking… you guessed it.

Listen, Chicken Little. I’m sure your pet causes are very important to you. Heck, you may even be right. But find a new line. The sky is not falling. The Gospel is not at stake. What you have is a disagreement, and one of these days you’re going to have to be able to talk about it like a grown up rather than spitting out the same slogan every time.

7: “God told me…”

To smack you upside the head? Don’t mind if I do!

That’s all I have. How about you?

(I’m watching you now… if you nominate something that I say, I’ll send my prayers to you in spite of the fact that your God is too small for that phrase so you attack the Gospel instead of following your God-given passion.)

Glenn Peoples

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Scott Henderson February 17, 2015, 4:00 am

    Here’s my list (some overlapping with yours), although I have no commentary as yet:

    I don’t feel led to do that.
    If you can’t understand it, it’s a God thing.
    Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.
    I am going to pray against that.
    We’re living in the last days.
    God is good all the time, all the time God is good.
    Ask Jesus to come into your heart.
    Be blessed or have a blessed day.
    Let go and let God.
    He’s on fire for God.
    She’s in a better place.
    When God closes a door, He opens a window.
    Don’t put God in a box.
    God never gives us more than we can handle.
    Everything happens for a reason.

  • Colin February 17, 2015, 5:06 am

    Hi Glenn,

    Interesting list of Christian pet peeves.

    I think number 2 in your list is loosely based on the following passage from one of Paul’s letter’s to the first-century church at Corinth: “So those who think they are standing need to watch out or else they may fall. No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13, CEB). The problem is that not everything that Christians face is to be understood as temptation as it is described within the context of this passage and so a phrase like “God won’t give you any more than you can handle” is too general.

    I would say that Christians need to stop saying things like: “(Remember that Jesus told people:) ‘Don’t judge’ ” out of context. A lot of people, including many Christians, know at least those two words in that verse in Mathew (7:1, CEB) and Luke (6:37, CEB) but very few acknowledge the surrounding verses when they are quoting those two words. In particular, I am referring to: ‘Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? … First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye.’ (Matthew 7:3-5, CEB; Luke 6:41-42, CEB).

    It seems to me that Jesus is clearly saying that we are to evaluate and judge more clearly by being aware and ever-conscious of our own faults and wrongdoing when and if we judge others. As far as I am aware, Jesus is *not* giving a command never to make evaluations and judgments about others and *nor* is he issuing a command to, as far as possible, not be judgmental. He *is*, however, saying that if we do not judge others in this manner – as people aware and ever-conscious of our own faults – we leave room for others to make evaluations and judgments in return about us that we ourselves have not really reflected upon, and it is quite possible that they will (“whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you” [Matthew 7:2, CEB]). We should be managing or dealing with our own faults and wrongdoing with the assistance of others when needed and these experiences may help us better assist others when we do come to make evaluations and judgments. Finally, we certainly should temper our evaluations and judgments of others so that those evaluations and judgments are fairer and constructive, rather than unfair and destructive on the same principle since we might find something that is taken by others as an insult may be returned with an insult. Having said all this, I think it can be said that there is at least some room in a Christian life for making evaluations and judgments about others.

    Regards,

    Colin

  • Melanie February 17, 2015, 7:46 am

    Glenn, I appreciate this post because I relate completely to your “nails on a chalkboard” analogy. However, I’ve found that sometimes expressing my irritation (i.e. immediately correcting some inaccuracy) shuts down communication. So I have been practicing self-control, taking time to consider whether I should reply instead of automatically reacting with a verbal cringe.

    Thank God the gospel isn’t at stake whenever we utter irritating and/or inaccurate statements about God 🙂 Not even when it is one of my own pet peeves: “We’re only human,” or “Nobody’s perfect.”

    For years my standard reply to the first has been–“we are much more than human since the Spirit of God dwells within us,” and to the second–“Christ is perfect and he lives within us.” Alas, I discovered that my reply can be just as irritating as the statement that provoked it.

    I have a question about your #2. Do you have a problem with someone saying, “the grace of God is sufficient in all circumstances? I would assume that’s the intended meaning of the statement “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I wouldn’t phrase it that way myself since I don’t think I can handle anything on my own, but no matter how trying my situation, I have found his grace is sufficient.

    Perhaps even sweet truth turns bitter if it becomes cliche.

  • Michael February 17, 2015, 3:37 pm

    Hi Glenn,

    Number four is a minor annoyance to me, but more so coming from unbelievers. If you don’t share my beliefs, then you don’t have to try to affirm me in my beliefs by such a lame use of generic spiritual language. -m

  • Piers February 17, 2015, 4:10 pm

    What bugs me is when Christians monopolise biblical interpretation with statements like “Biblical thinking” or “The biblical view on x is…”. Usually used in the context of an issue where the biblical interpretation is the very thing that is up to debate.

    For example, in a recent post of facebook, an acquaintance stated in response to an article criticising complementarianism, “…just another attack on Biblical thinking by moderate theologians.” Here, there seems to be an assumption that complimentarianism is the biblical position, and any other view is not. So if you don’t ascribe to the complementarian view, you are not being biblical.

    I have heard it used especially against proponents of evolution, conditionalism, same-sex marriage and arminianism / open theology.

  • Glenn February 17, 2015, 8:23 pm

    Melanie, I have much less of a problem with that, because at least it’s biblical language. I’d want to know “sufficient for what?” but it’s certainly better.

  • Jim February 18, 2015, 12:43 am

    ‘Isn’t it great to be in the house today!’ AKA a subtle reminder to the living stones that work needs to start on the extension to the coffee area…..soon!

    ‘You can’t out-give God’. Let’s just nail the coffee area extension fund folks.

  • Allan February 20, 2015, 9:31 am

    Great list. Here’s one that drives me nuts:

    “All of our good works are just filthy rags.”

    No they’re not! God delights in the good works of His people. The “filthy rags” statement from Isaiah was made to wayward Israel whom God was calling to repentance. Although our good works certainly pale in comparison to the righteousness of Christ, the misquoting of the verse in Isaiah reveals an attitude that says, “I can do nothing to please God,” which is total garbage.

  • Jim March 30, 2015, 1:09 am

    I’m hearing about ‘partnering with God/Jesus’ too often.

    Team God or disciple?

  • Brad April 23, 2015, 6:29 am

    One that has been annoying me a lot lately is, “What God is trying to say is…”. Sometime it is “Jesus is trying to say” or “Paul is trying to say”, etc. So, God’s communication skills are not up to par and someone is going to tell me what he is trying to say? Excuse me? God doesn’t try to say…he says.

  • David Hillary May 17, 2015, 3:27 pm

    In response to Colin about ‘Don’t judge’

    You are right that there is a need to put it in context. The context of the law of Moses is ‘judge your neighbour fairly’ so the injunction of Jesus is quite different. Just as the law of Moses said swear your oaths in God’s name and keep them, but Jesus said not to swear oaths at all. Jesus really did change the administration of the law concerning responses to wrongs, and ‘judging,’ — whatever that is — has changed from being regulated and required to be fair to being prohibited.

    So what does the word mean in this context? What does the prohibition cover, exactly? The answer can be seen from the context of the Sermon on the Mount as a whole: Jesus is dealing with responses to wrongdoing. For example, on breach of marriage obligations through sexual immorality, Jesus prohibits subsequent marriages as adultery (while the original spouse remains alive). This applies to the innocent spouse as well as the guilty one, for he says: ‘he causes her to commit adultery’, referring to the innocent wife divorced not for sexual immorality when she re-marries. So, Jesus prohibits doing wrong or evil or harm, on the justification of the wrongdoing of others, and notwithstanding legal procedure and safeguards.

    The main focus of the Sermon on the Mount is about civil litigation. It is this that he is prohibiting with the words ‘don’t judge.’ His prohibition applies to both to the judge and the plaintiff, for the word means not only ‘judge’ but also ‘sue.’ The plank being referred to is not the judge’s own personal past wrongs, but the use of force and coercion to supposedly ‘right’ the wrongs complained about by the plaintiff by using force to bring the respondent before the court, and to enforce the resulting judgement debt. If we remove the coercion and force from the civil claims and debt collection methods (as Jesus set out in Mat 18:15-20) we will see clearly to correct the faults of others.

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