Sometimes I curse. I don’t pepper my language liberally with curse words like people might pepper a house salad, but sometimes I curse.
It surprises people to hear that pastors sometimes curse. But really, that’s all I can do sometimes. When you see terrible tragedy where you have absolutely no response other than sadness and despair, cursing happens…because you can do nothing else.
Likewise, sometimes when I see utter beauty a word will slip through my lips, brought from the very depths of my emotional being where words live only to be used in situations where no word seems appropriate. Usually that’s a curse, too.
Pastors sometimes curse. Christians sometimes curse.
And, really, I hear things slip from Christian mouths with reckless abandon that I believe are far worse than curse words. Here are just 5 (there are undoubtedly more):
5) “That’s not Christian…”
I’ve heard this a lot. I once told a person that I meditated. They responded, “Well, that’s not Christian you know…”
See, the problem with that line of thinking is that it narrows what can be identified with living a life in Christ. Rob Bell does a great job in his book Velvet Elvis on dissecting the danger in turning the word “Christian” from a noun (as it’s used in the Bible) into an adjective. In the noun form, a Christian is a follower of Christ. In the adjective form, it describes an action…presumably an action that a follower of Christ should/shouldn’t do, and therefore sets up categories that have definite barriers. And in doing so, it implies some judgment that is unwarranted at best and untrue at worst. Consider these phrases that I’ve actually heard:
“It’s not Christian to fire that person.” (Implication: A Christian can’t do some things because they’re seen as “mean”)
“It’s not Christian to think those sexual thoughts.” (Implication: A Christian isn’t sexual, or if they are, they don’t think about it because God hates sex and real Christians can control such things)
“You can’t do yoga! It’s not a Christian practice…” (Implication: A Christian can’t borrow from other faith traditions…or, apparently, stretch with intentional breathing on rubber mats)
“You can’t get a tattoo; it’s unchristian to defile the temple of God.” (Implication: God has an opinion about the tribal band around your ankle)
People say it all the time, and while a generous interpretation of their words might be to assume they are calling a specific action/thought into question, the reality is that they just end up calling the person doing that thought/action “unchristian”…to hurtful consequences. For those questioning or skeptical of faith, it erects another barrier, and further narrowly defines who is in or out of a relationship with God.
What if someone were to say, “It’s unchristian to make that amount of money”? Or, “It’s unchristian to have a house that large because you really don’t need that much space”?
We should ban “Christian” in the adjective form. We can’t use it with any consistency.
4) “I love the sinner but I hate the sin..”
See, the problem that I have with this phrase is that it assumes that “sin” is a specific action that is done/can be undone. If that’s the case, name the specific action that you hate.
“I love you, Tommy, but I don’t like it when you break my glasses.” “I love you, Sarah, but I don’t like it when you kick my shins.”
But really, I haven’t heard this phrase used in those ways. I’ve only heard it used when people are talking about identity.
“I love gay people, I just hate that they act on their homosexual orientation…”
There we go. There’s an honest statement.
And an unhelpful one.
It’s unhelpful because, you can’t love me apart from my sexuality. I really don’t think you can. It’s part of what makes me who I am, even if it’s not the whole of my definition. So, if you were to say to me, “I love you, but I hate that you’re heterosexual…” I would probably stop listening right then and there because, well, I wouldn’t believe you.
You can’t love me and yet hate an essential part of me. This phrase is disingenuous.
3) “You need to surround yourself with some good Christian people…”
I once had a well-meaning friend tell me this when I was trying to sort out a problem. I think they were suggesting that I seek faith-based advice. I understand that sentiment.
But one of the problems with this sort of thinking is that, well, when you live in a bubble all you breathe is soapy air, and you may begin to think that is all there is.
As a pastor, people want me to have office hours at church. But in all seriousness, I can’t all the time. If I don’t go to the coffee house a couple times a week, I suffocate in my bubble. I need diversity because it is only in diversity where my thoughts, beliefs, and ideas are challenged.
And really, if I only see Christians all the time, I’m a pretty crappy pastor.
It is narrow to believe that somehow surrounding yourself with only one worldview will help you see the world better.
And besides, sometimes Christians surrounded people and then burned them on stakes…
2) “You just have to do God’s will…”
I am utterly suspicious of people who claim to know the specific will of God.
I’m even more suspicious of people who claim that God’s greatest wish is to have us be in a relationship with God. I think this is where much “praise and worship” music get it’s singular focus.
In the abstract, I get what they’re saying. I think God does desire for humanity to live in shalom with it’s creator. But to claim that this will takes precedence over God’s desire to have humanity live in shalom with one another, and with the environment, and with other creation is, I think, short-sighted. Theology runs into a similar problem when it focuses so much on “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” and fails to mention the other persons of the Trinity.
We run into real problems when we begin to think that with regard to specific situations (like, say, my future husband/wife) that God has one will.
I cannot see how that can be true. I love my wife. But do I think she’s the only person in the world I could have married? Do I think that I’m the only person in the world she could have married? No. I don’t. She’s bright, beautiful, and funny. There are lots of people who would have asked her to marry them (and still might…she’ll just have to say “no”). Likewise I’m beautiful and funny (jury is out on the “bright”), and could have found another partner.
I just found her and we decided to do this. (It was actually much more complicated than that…and a bit more romantic…)
I hope this gives some freedom to those in the world who believe that there is only one right job, one right spouse, one right school, one right anything that they must find or else they’re missing out on God’s will for their life.
And this leads me to the number one…
1) “It’s all in God’s plan…”
That you lost your baby. That your sister was murdered. That you got cancer. That your life is in shambles.
I really can’t think of a worse thing to say to someone, especially when they’re in pain.
We cannot use God to fill in the gaps between events and the people they effect. We want to give solace, to promise that there is a purpose behind madness, but if there is one thing that the cross shows us definitively, it’s that God takes the pain in the world and makes resurrection.
But we should not think that this means that God makes the world’s pain, or the specific pain in a person’s life. It’s an important distinction.
One of the reasons I left faith for a while was because I had heard too many times that God was flipping switches on people: causing children to die, cancer to spread, poverty to happen, etc.
Not only do I think that saying this to someone is adding hurt to hurt, I think it breaks the second commandment. When we say such things, we use God’s name in vain; we use it “uselessly” as the word is better translated.
So when you’re confronted with the news of your friend’s tragedy or a relative’s pain, stand in solidarity with them and scream, “Dammit!” I’m a reluctant Christian at times because I think that those who call themselves Christian don’t think enough about their words.
Frankly, I wish they’d just curse more.
Ah…the yoga comment… I was just told that this week. Apparently I channel gods through it.
I hope they’re benevolent.
Wow, I thought there was just one but I guess other Christians may be polytheistic…
So, that was a joke. I’m not polytheistic…and I don’t think Tara is, either. But its great to have all sorts reading! Thanks for stopping in, you have a really interesting blog as well.
Sorry, I was not actually implying that, mine was a benevolent sarcastic comment and it was meant as comment on the previous thing but I clicked the wrong “reply” as I fear I have done once again. (replying to Timothy below)
“I am utterly suspicious of people who claim to know the specific will of God.”
I couldn’t agree with you more!
“I’m even more suspicious of people who claim that God’s greatest wish is to have us be in a relationship with God.”
That’s a funny one cause my church actually has yoga classes. And occasionally, belly dancing, and classes discussing other religions, and various other things that “aren’t very christian”. That phrase is such crap.
“No other gods before Me”, isn’t it? You can have as many as you want, provided they’re second 😉
I always say: Monotheism is like monogamy – other deities may or may not exist – you just can’t get busy with them. “No other gods before Me” is not a statement of reality- it is a statement of devotion.
I love this so much! Thank you for writing it!
Comments I hear a lot of. I hope you’ve never been told that it wasn’t Christian of a clergywoman like ‘yourself’ to wear eyeliner and lipstick. Maybe I should have told them Wippell’s and Almy don’t carry the right colors and we need to go out of our way to Sephora…
Ha. My eyeliner is from the Goth store in Uptown. Or should I say “guyliner”?
Anyway, that’s terrible, too. Perhaps for my next treatment of the subject…
I”ve got lots of material for you.
Cursing is a struggle for me too. I bought Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book – Perils of Profanity and frankly it has helped me and given me reason to find alternatives in my own vocabulary. I highly recommend it!
Thanks for the book recommendation!
…but I think cursing is necessary sometimes…
You might change your mind if you read that book.
it may be useful to you, but necessary it is not.
My most passionate prayers are sprinkled with profanity. God has not withheld his presence from me when I offer up my whole self to him (which may just include a few ‘f-bombs’ if the topic evokes it). To me, it is a relief to present my messy uncensored self to God and still be embraced by his love. We are imperfect after all. It’s not news to him. Thanks for the article.
Cursing is a matter of the heart. Yes, there is still a difference in thinking it and speaking it, but to replace one ‘f’ word with another did not change the sentiment.
Also, I believe there is a difference between profanity and cursing. General profanity is usually viewed as ignorant and disrespectful. It should honestly been seen the same as a random fool uttering incohesive statements. Cursing should be reserved just as an exclamation point.
One thing that is commonly attached to both profanity and cursing is using (taking) God’s name in vain. Hopefully the book addressed this directly. This is a sin. Feel free to speak to God directly on a regular basis (as Paul mentions hundreds of times). Steer clear of randomly inserting God’s name (or any reference to) into your everyday talk.
Wouldn’t taking God’s name in vain be attributing a vain act to God’s favoritism toward something. Like thanking god for winning the Superbowl or a Grammy or justifying war because God is on your side?
So, this is one of the most misunderstood commandments in my view. As I point out, the commandment is best translate “Use God’s name uselessly.” So, KVD, you’re right. It’d also be attributing to God something that God had nothing to do with. Or perhaps making a billboard where you cite God…I mean, there are so many ways to use God’s name uselessly.
Actually, Jesus explains the “don’t take God’s name in vain” thing. What it means is when you swear an oath in God’s name–and I don’t mean profanity, I mean saying something like “By God, I’ll quit smoking this year.” Taking God’s name in vain means swearing that you’ll quit smoking this year, and by the next New Year’s Eve party you’re up to a pack a day. Swearing an oath in his name and then breaking it.
I am not going to look up book, chapter, and verse but it’s in the passage where Jesus says, “But I say unto you, Swear not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by thine head, for thou canst not make one hair white or black.” Sorry for the KJV but it’s what I remember best.
Anyway. If you’re getting mad at people for saying “God damn it” but not mad at the people who say that by God they’re going to lose ten pounds and then they’re twice as fat in six months, your pique’s a bit misguided.
Studies have shown that if you do not habitually swear, but let a good one go once in a while, it is a great stress-reliever. I think the main problem with profanity is not that people swear but that they overdo it. And I’m not one who finds a whole lot of problems with profanity. (I’m also an agnostic, so feel free to dismiss my opinion as you will.)
Anyone willing to dismiss your statement because you’re agnostic is not being reasonable at all. You have a very strong grasp of Biblical theology. As a Christian, I pray that you do eventually find truth in the Scriptures and hope that you’re not turned off by the hypocrisy that often takes place in the church.
Cursing is quite necessary sometimes.
It is arresting, shocking, and rousts the hearers out of their complacency. Y’know, like…well, I dunno…braiding a whip out of leather cords and going berserk while cursing and overturning the commerce tables of moneygrubbers who exploit people?
Agreed! Thanks for sharing.
It’s been scientifically proven that people who curse are more truthful. I get tired of “Christian” people saying that it’s horrible to curse, or that it’s non-necessary. Technically, talking is non-necessary. You can get through life without it, but it’s just not as enjoyable.
I think if you’re using extremely graphic language, that’s one thing, but cursing is something entirely different. If I say “Son of a pig” with as much vehemence as the actual term, I just cursed. The words aren’t dirty, it’s the intent behind them that can become an issue.
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What if someone were to say, “It’s unchristian to make that amount of money”? Or, “It’s unchristian to have a house that large because you really don’t need that much space”?
Well? Maybe the listener would reconsider how their life aligned with their professed beliefs?
But people *don’t* say that… they say it’s “unchristian” to care about the environment, or question wealth, or break gender norms, or admit to experirncing depression or anxiety.
Although that’s changing. There are Christians involved in the Occupy movement, for example.
On target. Thanks.
A friend of mine pointed out that, although we use them as a synonym for ‘cussing’, there is a distinct difference between cursing, blaspheming, profanity, obscenity, and plain ol’ cussing. One can do all of the first four without a single cuss word.
We’re often told as Christians not to say certain words, particularly those that fall into one of the five above descriptions. However, I think that far too often, it’s the harmless, everyday words that we think are “helpful”, “challenging”, or “speaking the truth in love”* that (intentionally or not) cause the most pain.
*- i.e. “I’m going to throw tact and courtesy to the wind and say thoughtless, rude things under the mantle of ‘tough love’ and showing you that I care, therefore removing your right to take offense to anything I say.”
Thanks for the distinction, Kari. There is some truth there. Thanks for reading and commenting!
I don’t know about this. The arguments can quickly get too complicated when we try to say what we can say and what we can’t say. “Speak the truth in love” works for me, but it does not mean “Speak whatever is on your mind at all times and in all places and then hide behind loving intentions.” It means, “Love one another and speak the truth when it is helpful for the edification, correction or encouragement of the other.”
Thanks, Douglas! Perhaps “speak truth in love” is a good mantra. It begs, though, what Pilate asked so succinctly in John, “What is truth?”
This week’s lectionary might have something to say about it.
Pilate crucified truth!
Actually your post here brings out my problem with the blog post. Pilate may have asked “What is truth?” but that’s Pilate. The Bible tells us in John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-” That tells me I CAN know truth, God’s truth. I turn again to the Bible and Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
How do we know God? We know Him through relationship. How do we renew our minds? Through reading God’s Word, through prayer, and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God’s love for us is deep and boundless, and telling anyone otherwise is to perpetuate the lies of the enemy that constantly whisper to each of us that we could never be enough. But God tells us we are enough. In fact, Jesus came to secure that with his blood.
Pastor, we are cautioned not to become stumbling blocks to others. If cussing can be that, I would urge anyone to ask God’s help in changing it. Banning Christian in the adjective form…you say you don’t want to limit what it means to be Christian and I get where you are coming from, but I’m reminded that the Bible doesn’t say that we can act however we want. No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace, yes, but there is an issue of true repentance also. As for “surrounding yourself with good Christian people”, I think your post chooses to take this out of context to some degree,but let’s face it, we’re back to the idea of renewing your mind. I prefer to do that with people who know God and with God Himself. I can’t renew my mind and gain “fresh oil” to pour out to others from a cesspool. We are to be about God’s business wherever we are, and we don’t check our relationship with God at the door of that coffee house you mentioned. While I don’t believe you meant to imply that you choose to do so, I also don’t believe you want to give the impression that you feel weighing the advice of the world should factor into our decisions.
Finally as to ” It’s all in God’s plan”..God’s plan does not create pain, loss and lack for His amusement or to teach us a lesson. The Bible tells us “Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”… So God doesn’t always see things the way we do with our limited sight. What I do know is that God can take pain and brokenness and heal it. He can take the plans of the enemy and use them for good. I have the promise that God binds up the brokenhearted and heals their wounds.
There’s a lot here, Cianna. Thank you for adding your voice.
Instead of commenting on the many places we disagree, I want to lift up where we agree: God can take pain and make resurrection.
I like what Charles Schulz (Peanuts) said – Good Grief and Rats and the only 2 words you need (instead of swearing).
Ha. He was a good Lutheran. My grandmother was also a good Lutheran. She preferred the word “Shit.”
You seem to be proud to say a curse word. I think it is weird.
Not proud, Lisa. Just honest. I find it weird when people never curse.
The only time I heard the word come from my grandmother’s mouth I was shocked! And she looked at the bottom of her shoe and said “well, I just stepped in it wearing my good shoes” I died laughing then.
Thank you for this!
Thank you for commenting! Blessings!
Soory, he had me until the last comment. possibly he needs to go back and reread parts of the Bible that show clearly God *does* cause things like our daughter’s death or my friend’s cancer. Read Job. Read the story of Joseph. Read…. well, the Bible. Read it. Either God is God, ultimately in charge of all things, or He isn’t.
Hi Beads, thanks for posting. I’ve read Scripture. The whole thing. A couple of times. I don’t subscribe to your interpretation. God does not have to kill everyone who dies in the world to be God.
I’m sorry for your loss and the illness of your friends. Many prayers for them, and thanks for commenting.
Hopefully we can all be careful about how we speak to people in light of the fact that not everyone can stomach the thought that God causes people to get cancer.
Thank you for your kind comments. But how then do you explain, among other Biblical passages, all the troubles Job had, including the death of all of his children, and Joseph’s trials, which both of them clearly say, with no room for interpretation, were *caused* by God? As Job says to his grieving wife in one verse, “Shall we then accept good from God and not accept adversity?” Just because someone can’t stomach something doesn’t mean it isn’t true…. I have a hard time stomaching the idea that a totally innocent Person was whipped and beaten, spat upon and reviled, and then nailed to a cross for stuff I did, so that I could be reconciled to God. Still true. Praise God, still true.
could it be that God allows unfortunate things to happen and then uses those situations for HIS glory…when someones life is changed dueto death or misfortune,it gives the tragedy a meaning. Sometimes bad things do happen, I lost a daughter in a violent way. Her death was not without meaning because other, her peers and adults she interacted with used the situation to reevaluate their lives and actions. I don’t believe God killed her, I do believe that God made lemonade out of lemon though. Thats what people in those situations need to hear.
Thanks for your comments, Margaret. I would say that, if God were to do that, it’d be pretty selfish on God’s part. That’s why I don’t think it’s true.
I do, however, agree with your idea that God makes good out of tragedy, but I wouldn’t say that God makes tragedy to make good.
Thanks for posting!
I think that if there is a God, while you could make a good argument that He created the universe, you could also make a good argument that if He were to intervene in every single bad thing that ever happens, He’d violate His own laws of physics for this reality and probably rend the universe asunder.
Either you believe God’s capable of making the universe just perfect the way it is, or you believe God made a whole bunch of mistakes and keeps having to fix them.
And we really do not have the ability to take the long view and understand why these things happen. I think cancer happens, for example, because that’s just the way DNA works under certain circumstances. And we wouldn’t want to live in a universe where DNA *stopped* working. We’d cease to exist.
It sucks, but there it is.
Hey Dana, thanks for your comments. I don’t agree with you, and I don’t think “that’s the way it is” necessarily, but thanks for commenting.
God didn’t cause Job’s suffering, he allowed it to happen because he knew Job could handle the pressure and ultimately Job defeated Satan through the experience. So maybe God is allowing us chances to defeat Satan and we mistake it for God causing us despair.
So, I guess I should go ahead and say that I don’t take Job literally. It’s a story with a purpose. But I don’t think the purpose is to show that God allows suffering, nor to say that God plays games with us.
I know there are others who don’t share that view. Thanks for posting!
God is in control of the universe and all that happens in it. He did allow it to happen, the Word says so…. and yes, Job defeated Satan in the process. My point was, when someone is in charge to the degree God is, the difference between cause and allow is negligible, since nothing can touch us that doesn’t pass through God’s hands first. I find that reassuring…. even if I don’t like everything He allows/causes/lets happen to me.
The Job story is fiction. Lets however look at it as if it really happen when you you read it all the pain that God allowed Job to experience by given satan the go ahead after he asked God for permission to harm( loving God?) was in order to do one thing. For God to win a bet. Christians are sick who believe this story to be anything more than immoral on God’s part since after all Job was flawless and made to suffer for it cause his “God” has a self esteem issue. You guys make me laugh. Please wake up you are more moral than the God you claim exists although you do suffer from the same low self esteem as the God that was created by humans.
I’ll approve this comment because I’m an equal opportunity approver, but I while I do agree with this poster that the Job story is story, I do believe it holds Truth.
I don’t like that in Job God wagers a bet. But it’s a teaching story from a different era. It can still speak today.
By and large, though, I ask that people keep the dialogue respectful in here. I’m sorry that this poster feels that I, or anyone, suffers from low self-esteem because of my faith. If anything, my faith feeds my self-esteem because God has named me…and that’s pretty important.
Thanks for coming by, though, Jackson!
It seems to me that part of the point of the story of Job is how bad his friends were at comforting him in his suffering, because they each presumed to speak for God.
And that is exactly what Pastor Tim was talking about.
Caused it or allowed it, it still went through His hands on the way to Job. I’m ok with that, since He also gives us the grace to deal with the things He causes/allows. And Satan has already been defeated, he’s just lurking around trying to get God’s people’s eyes off Him and onto his historically evil cry of “You can be like God!”
God didn’t cause those things to happen to Job. He allowed them to happen. There’s a difference. We live in a fallen world. The bad things that happen are going to happen because of Adam and Eve’s initial sin in the garden. I do not believe that God creates the bad, I think He allows it on occasion and stops it on others.
Fantastic post. I’m amused that the comment thread seems more fixated on the use of vulgarities rather than on your main points 🙂 but I guess that’s just how things go.
I’ve spent the past 10 years working with high school students at a Christian school and we have had many discussions about the points you raise. I’ve worked hard to clarify biblical lines for my students, and to push them toward the Word for the definition of what is sin and what should weigh on their consciences.
Honestly, I’ve interacted with plenty of people (adults and teens) who are content to tear others to shreds with their words or gossip or backbite or lie, but will go ballistic if you ask them to stop being a f—king sinner in their speech and actions. The irony of that amazes me.
All of this stems from a misunderstanding of Sin as a biblical concept. As soon as we lose our focus on what God says is the problem of humanity (our twisted, perverted nature which cries out for supernatural intervention, Grace, and the Gospel) and begin forming our own definitions of sin based on cultural mores, “standards,” or other human inventions, we lose the Gospel in the whole mess. Every phrase you target in your post *sounds* great until we hold it up to the light of the Word instead of current Christian culture.
Anyway, apologies for the ramble. Great post.
Thanks, Ramey! And thanks for commenting!
I’m sorry, but I find some of these offensive as a Catholic. I agree with one or two of them, but you’re taking most of these WAY out of context. For example, “It’s all in God’s plan.” God is NOT causing bad things to happen. We have FREE WILL. With free will comes CHOICES that affect everything. And I don’t know what other Christians believe (I know that Protestants don’t believe this), but Catholics believe that God has a plan for everything because, as He exists outside of time, he knows the choices we are GOING to make. He doesn’t force us to make them, we aren’t DESTINED to make them, He just knows that we will make them because He knows everything.
And when we say, “it’s all in God’s plan,” it’s because it’s something beautiful. We believe that goodness can come from suffering. Suffering can be beautiful. Christ suffered and died on the cross and, as a result, saved mankind. In my school, a sophomore named Connor developed a cancerous brain tumor and died, but in the process, he strengthened ALL of our faiths with his love, bravery, and acceptance. He showed us that death is just the beginning of a new journey. God has the ability to turn suffering and badness into joy and goodness. When we say that phrase to people, we’re telling them that they’re suffering for a REASON, that it’s NOT for nothing, and that if they just keep holding onto hope something beautiful will come of it. We are NOT trying to undermine their suffering.
I’d like to tackle ALL of these but I think that’s enough for now. I understand that you’ve probably been surrounded by bad Christian examples for a while, but the majority of Christians are wonderful people.
To clarify: I’m a Christian.
And I don’t think that telling a mother who just lost her child, “It’s all in God’s plan…” is good whether your Catholic, Methodist, or Jewish.
I’m sorry you’re offended. I’m offended when people use these phrases. Thanks for reading and commenting, though.
Katy, I think the distinction Tim is trying to make is between saying that God _caused_ Connor’s brain tumor in order to create good, and saying that God somehow managed to _use_ Connor’s brain tumor (which is simply the result of our mortality and frailty) in order to bring about good. God redeems, but God does not necessarily always cause. To say that God caused it to make other people behave or grow is to make God the author of evil. To say that God redeemed the situation and brought good out of it in spite of its crappy, horrible circumstances makes God the author of good.
Do I believe that God knows that things will occur? Sure. But scripture also teaches that people regularly change God’s mind about things, too…so where does that leave us? All we can do is trust that God is working to redeem and renew, and leave the whys and wherefores to God. The Roman church would describe this as “mystery,” and I agree with them.
BTW, there are lots and lots of non-Catholic Christians who believe God has a plan…in fact, most do. Careful not to perpetuate stereotypes about your sisters and brothers in other branches of the Church Universal, and we’ll try to do the same for you!
Christ’s peace to you.
Very good point, Keith, and thank you for responding! I just believe that God, being goodness and love itself, would never cause harm to His children. And I want to clarify that I was NOT saying anything negative about other branches of Christianity or insinuating that they’re inferior or that the Catholic Church’s teachings are better, I was just unclear as to whether or not other branches believe the same and so I made a mention because I didn’t want to speak for EVERYONE if that wasn’t true.
I am completely offended by your post. I lost two babies…one during emergency surgery and the other a miscarriage. I don’t think it was at all a “beautiful” part of my life. I think it was horrible, stress filled, heartbreaking mess. While it wrote on the slate of who I am, I don’t think of the “goodness” it caused me. There was no goodness. I’m happy that Connor inspired people’s faiths, but as a person who lost many family members to cancer and other people before their time, I take no comfort in your words. I believe what happened to me was part of my taking up my cross and continuing to follow Jesus in good times and bad, but I will never think those horrifying, traumatic things are some kind of wonderful journey. I am also a lung cancer survivor who lost part of her lung and no, I never smoked. While my faith is strengthened, it’s a bit more difficult for others to be ecstatic that God chose them to make an example of faith out of them. I sincerely hope that you never, ever come in contact with anyone in hospice care with that mindset. My friends and patients don’t need that kind of compassion.
Thank you for your testimony, Sandy. A great example of why that is #1 on my list. Blessings, and thanks for commenting!
Your comment ” I know that Protestants don’t believe this” isn’t true. Well, I guess you meant to say that you THINK Protestants don’t believe “God has a plan”, but I believe you don’t have the full picture. Unless I misunderstand what you wrote, there is no difference in my conservative, evangelical, protestant understanding of “God’s plan” and yours.
Actually Katy, you were VERY clear in your comment “I KNOW that Protestants don’t believe this”. It’s just that you”know” something that isn’t true.
” When you see terrible tragedy where you have absolutely no response other than sadness and despair, cursing happens…because you can do nothing else.”
Really . that’s when you curse? Does cursing really have to have the excuse of extremity? Most people curse when more trivial annoyance or frustration hits, bad hit in the ball game, the bloke in front takes the parking spot. Maybe it’s only certain Christians who need to make cursing purposeful and holy to justify it…
To clarify: that’s just when I curse. Feel free to curse whenever you feel the need. But I think there are certain situations where the only thing you can do is curse. I’m not sure the guy stealing your parking spot deserves your time. But, to each their own. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Well… fuck. I guess I need to get my priorities straight, then.
curses……….I like to use mine for a stubbed toe… tragedy deserves better.
Perhaps. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Aren’t “curse words” words that each culture has determined to be offensive within their culture? I refuse to let others control what I do and do not say…it’s between God and me. This is a great post, thanks for sharing!
Thanks, Amber! I think cursing is pretty arbitrary as well. I say “bloody” all the time. I hear that’s a curse in Britain…but it’s just how I prefer my steak.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
We use “bloody” in two ways: an adjective (as you said with your steak or when somebody’s bleeding out) and as a soft curse. Like with most places, we have an average list of curses from more offensive/hard to less/soft. “Bloody” is pretty soft – probably slightly less “offensive/hard” than damn.
I’m not sure if we swear more than Americans do… I think we just have choices. Though if want to see some real cursing, talk to an Australian.
Anyway, nice list.
Ha, thanks for the cultural correction. I intended it as a joke, but bloody well done!
Typo (whoops): “I think we just have choices.” should have been “I think we just have more choice.”
Australian here… I resemble that remark! :-). (I too cannot see Gods good plan in my child’s death… but the way God has used my/our experience of that death is profound. I even got to preach/share the story on Good Friday in the pulpit of Westminster Abbey)
Mike, I think you are absolutely right. God stands in solidarity with us against those things in this world that take life, transforming them. God can help us to make meaning out of the meaningless places of life. That is the story of the cross. Thank you for sharing your story!
about number four: Loving the sinner hand hating the sin does come off as judgmental. I believe a slight tweak to the phrase would be more appropriate and more in one with what Jesus actually said: Love the sinner. Hate your own sin. Gotta take that tree out of our own eye first.
Thanks for sharing.
-signed, Another cussing Pastor
Thanks Dave. That’s helpful! And cuss away.
How about, “Love the person.Leave their sin between them and God”?
It’s interesting to me that Rob Bell, and you by quoting him, thinks that using Christian as a noun is a better choice than using it as an adjective. Perhaps because to me, “Christian” has become much bigger than “Christ-Follower”. The American noun “Christian” means a group of people who belong to the Christian club or tribe. It is, in my current way of seeing things, analogous to “Jew”. A Jew can be a practicing, faithful Jew – or it can be an ethnic or social qualification.
I like Christian as an adjective or adverb. Actually, I like “Christ-Like” because it seems more descriptive and easier to answer. And i like it better as an adverb, because the accounts of Jesus are typically of his actions.
Is an action the “Christian” thing to do asks if it is in the Christian tradition or perhaps the contemporary Christian status quo. Is an action “Christ-like” asks if the action supports the message of Christ. Is it showing love to God directly or by loving another person?
I think it’s a good distinction you bring up. I think a better thing to say would be, “How does my/your faith inform that action?”
Thanks for commenting and reading!
Wow. I really enjoyed this post and found myself nodding my head a LOT. As a former Christian (and now a non-theist), I found it refreshing, and what I wish more Christians could hear and really “get” (I know they won’t hear it from me, but perhaps from those still on the inside…)
The comments picking apart the cursing thing are also wow. Kind of funny, although a bit sad, and were like an extra bonus track on a CD. A #6 for your list. Missing the forest for the trees and all that…something I remember well. Although, considering that you did touch the “gay” topic, I was rather impressed they weren’t focused on that. So kuddos, really. 😉
Thanks, Christine. And thanks for reading!
I feel that you are amazing graceful to these people that are attacking you because they disagree with something you said. That, to me, drives home what you said more than anything. I will definitely be sharing this because there are some nice truths in here that Christians need to see.
Thanks, Mic. Many blessings today!
Love The Blogger. Hate The Blog. 😉
AMEN! Love the blogger, hate this post. If his point was ‘stop being a pharisee’ then I get it and he’s right.
But the part of this post that is trying to back up that main point was illogical and poorly thought out, and worse it’s based on feelings as opposed to reality (reality meaning the facts regarding the nature of God, of creation and of human beings). Trusting feelings, and making decisions or deciding what is right or wrong based on your feelings or the feelings of those you deal with, is always a bonehead move that will lead you down the wrong path to error and destruction.
Not to mention, he more or less logically refutes himself in almost every one of his 5 points. I won’t change his mind so I won’t bother to try. But I’ll pray for his ‘relevantly hipster’ soul and know that he’ll wake up eventually, as we all dodid.
Again, I thank you for commenting, but I don’t agree. I’m glad you like me, though. 🙂
I just re-read this. I’m also not a hipster. My glasses are frame-less, and tight jeans don’t look good on me. I am interested in where you think the logical inconsistencies are. I think it’s really fun to throw the word “illogical” around without taking the actual, philosophical discipline into consideration.
But, that might just be my feelings talking. My bonehead feelings.
And why isn’t “bonehead” a curse word? It seems to me that a lot of the folks who have trouble with this posting sure are using some strong language. Wow.
Wait a minute, let me get this straight – there are FACTS regarding the nature of God?!
And here I thought the study of religion was called Theology, because it is a THEORY!
Gee, I must be extremely out of touch with “reality”.
The nature of God is something that nobody can prove or disprove, although, throughout the ages many have tried. I do not believe God is a body, but I do think God is more than just an idea. While I will not be so arrogant as to suggest that I know anything for certain (unless one has personally met God, no one can make such a claim) I will, however, offer my perspective about what I think God is. I suppose one could surmise that, this is my “reality” regarding God.
I believe the universe is a closed system. Nothing ever dies, the energy just gets transformed into another form. Therefore, I have been here since the beginning of time, and I will ultimately experience infinite ends and new beginnings. At the level of pure energy, everything is connected to everything else.
As human beings, we borrow a small piece of this energy from our mothers, as we pass from being a part of her, into being our own separate person, at birth, when the umbilicus is cut. We live out our time on this planet and when our bodies eventually wear out, that borrowed energy passes on in a different form, or returns back to the source. But our mother is not the source. The energy we borrowed from her is merely a piece of the energy she borrowed from her mother, and so on.
Every animal, person, plant, stone, every-thing, holds, for a time, a small piece of this energy and when it’s outlived its time in that form, the energy is then transformed or passed into something else.
To quote Whitman –
“I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.”
In this passage Whitman is suggesting that, in death, he is transmuted into the dirt, presumably when his body is buried and begins to decay. His energy and body are transformed in this state of decay, which then in turn produces fertile ground, allowing the grass to grow. In this way, Whitman effectively IS the grass, green and alive with that same borrowed energy which was once his living, breathing body.
In conclusion, it is this borrowed energy, found in all things, which I believe God to be. As such, God can be found in everyone and everything. God is a part of me, just as God is the air I breathe and the sun that shines upon my face and, one day, God shall be the grass that grows atop my grave.
Almost gives new meaning to the phrase “holy shit”, doesn’t it?
Thanks for commenting Parker. Theology literally means ” The study of God.” Theo-God, ology-study of. It’s not from the word theory.
My bad – can’t wait to mention this to my philosophy professor… he must have been having a really off day.
We all have off days. Theos is the Greek word for God, the root of it. They may have been mentioning the similarity to “theory” just so you could keep it in mind.
With all realms of study we have a difficult time remembering that knowledge is not having the right answers, but knowing the best questions. In this way, all of life and study is theory put into practice.
Perhaps this is my effort to make sure my words aen’t idle.
Do you realize most of the things you mentioned in the “unChristian” part are indeed unChristian? This is a sincere question, because I know that all Christians that aren’t Amish like to nitpick at the inerrant word of God. I could source the Bible for you after I get some sleep if you need me to.
I also disagree with the “God’s plan” part. Of course everything is part of God’s plan, what with God being all-knowing and all-powerful and all. It’s God’s plan when bad things happen as much as it is when good things happen. I agree that saying this after a tragedy isn’t comforting, but God is never comforting except in issues of mortality. Most everyone that believes in Heaven believes that they and all their loved ones are getting in, regardless of what their religion might say.
Thanks for commenting and posting. I think it’s obvious we don’t agree on this. No need to quote Scripture, I have my own bag of Scriptures to quote back. It’s a fun game to play except for everyone else who has to read it. Suffice to say, it’s OK to disagree. I would point you back to Bell’s book Velvet Elvis for a more thorough treatment of what I mean in for phrase #5.
As for phrase #1, I implore you not to use it to people facing tragedy. And, because we can’t really parse out what “God’s plan” actually means here, let’s just say that I trust the author of Ephesians when he says that God is drawing all creation unto God’s self. If that’s what you mean by plan, then we’re in agreement.
Regardless, thanks for sharing!
This is my first post of yours that I’ve read, and from the start you seem like a thoughtful person and you take the time to respond to comments, and I appreciate that.
I’m sure neither of us want to discuss fate or destiny, so instead I’m going to ask, out of curiosity, what is a better thing to say in the wake of a tragedy in your opinion?
…you know, besides screaming dammit
Mateo, How about, “I’m sorry you are going through x, y, z. Can I bring a meal to you? I’m here to listen if you’d like to talk.”
It seems obvious, by these comments, that some people find strength in comment #1. Imploring people not to use it assumes that everyone feels the same way you do. Truth is, they don’t. And if it brings people comfort in a time of loss, I see nothing wrong with saying it… even if YOU think it’s the WORST thing people can say. (I also don’t understand how you can imply that God doesn’t want us to have a relationship with God, but maybe I’m just reading it wrong.) PS not everyone finds it useful to curse either.
To clarify, I don’t mean to imply that God/Jesus doesn’t want a relationship with us. What I mean is that the church has for so long trumpeted the “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” that all other relationships that God might desire have been sacrificed.
And there’s a difference between “useful” and “healthy.” Psychologically speaking, platitudes like the one above inhibit psychological health (and, I would say, spiritual health), not promote it.
And, I welcome disagreement. That’s fine.
As a mother who lost her first child, I can tell you first-hand that saying to me, “it’s part of God’s plan” was not in any way comforting or helpful! (In all honesty, there is Nothing anyone could say to make it easier or better. Nothing at all. Human words were pointless and meaningless to me.) As a matter of fact, telling me it was part of some devine plan pissed me off and also made me question my faith. Though I now (10 years later) feel and understand the situation differently, at the time I was too hurt and angry to see God’s mercy in the situation. Therefore, I have to agree with you, Pastor. In a time of great tragedy, telling a person “it’s part of God’s plan” is a horrible idea. Although it mayebe true, that’s not the right time to express those thoughts. Personally, I preferred silence and a hug. No words at all. Words seemed to make everything worse.
Just my experience.
Cursing is not sinful. Gratuitous cursing is unhelpful because it highlights something in our life we cannot control. As ambassadors of Christ, we need to be always mindful of this relationship. We are empowered so we might be masters over ourselves, but there will always be times when we feel at a loss for words. No one would have used the word cunt to describe anything 2000 years ago, but John in his anger called the pharisees a brood of vipers. If you think that is not cursing, you only do so because this generation has become desensitized to expletives. I assure you that phrase would have caused an outcry and Johns arrest by Herod would have delighted the leaders because of the offense he caused. A preacher once said “shit” in his sermon. The congregation gasped and he replied “millions of people will die never knowing or understanding the deep love of God. But you are more concerned that i just said shit than you are about the lost” Some perspective is required.
Helpful, Kristian. Thanks for posting!
As a side-note, there are tons of things in my life that I can’t control. I’m not sure it weakens my ability to convey Christ to others.
I definitely agree with all of these! However, there’s another phrase I’d fit into #1, just because they’re both pastoral counseling failures…
The whole, “We should be celebrating/enjoying/happy/anyemotionthatisn’tcrushingagony his passing if we really believe that he’s in heaven now…” or “it’s all going to be okay because he’s in a better place…” bit.
There’s a way to put resurrection in sermons, counseling, etc., but this kind of voiced logic happens all the time and it just MAKES IT WORSE. I hate when ministers fail to validate pain. At least my pastoral counseling teacher and I are on the same page!
Thanks, Lindsey. I absolutely agree that this should also be added.
Just a thought about your point #4:
“I love gay people, I just hate that they act on their homosexual orientation…”
There we go. There’s an honest statement.
And an unhelpful one.
It’s unhelpful because, you can’t love me apart from my sexuality. I really don’t think you can. It’s part of what makes me who I am, even if it’s not the whole of my definition. So, if you were to say to me, “I love you, but I hate that you’re heterosexual…”
There is a difference between the first statement which says, “I love gay people, I just hate that they ACT on their homosexual orientation…” and “I love you, but I hate that you ARE heterosexual…”
The former hates actions, and you had just stated… “If that’s the case, name the specific action that you hate.” The latter hates the person’s orientation, which is different. A more comparable parallel to a heterosexual person would be, “I love you, but I hate that you are having sex with multiple women outside of marriage or are having an adulterous affair.”
Sexual orientation, as you said is not inherently sinful, whether or not you are heterosexual or homosexual. However, actions ARE deemed sinful in Scripture, and should be challenged.
When we make our actions our identity, we are in trouble, because not everything we feel led to do by inner compulsions are right or good.
I have many thoughts on this. I guess the most pressing one is that, by design, I cannot imagine God creating me with an orientation that I wasn’t to act on. So I don’t think, in this instance, we can parse them from orientation/behavior so neatly.
Thanks for commenting!
But then don’t we all have a sinful orientation we act upon everyday? I’m a pretty good liar…I have an urge to lie on a consistent basis. When I act out on it, it’s a sin. Can I still be loved? Yes. Can you love the fact that I might, at any point, lie to your face without thinking twice? Probably not.
I just think the whole “born this way” mentality has many negative spiritual implications. We’re all “born this way,” but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Pedophiles will often claim they can only have sexual urges when looking at children…an orientation they claim to identify with and act upon. Who’s to say that one person’s “sin” is or is not a sin but God? And furthermore, who’s to say one person’s sin is greater than another? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” My point is, I believe we should love the sinner, but hate the sin, with the understanding that we all sin. I should hate my own sin as much (or more) than someone else’s (the splinter and the plank in one’s eye and all that).
I do not enjoy being lied to; but, because I understand I have committed the same transgression, and because I have been forgiven by God’s grace, I can extend the same grace and forgiveness to others who lie to me. Does this mean I condone lying? No. I agree with you that seperating orientation/behavior is difficult; however, we are all born with a sinful nature, and our behavior is often a result of that. Therefore, our determination of what constitutes a sin can only come from the word of God; condemnation can only come from God himself; but we all have the power to forgive. Should we excuse or condone sin? No; but we all sin. Should we love and forgive those who sin? Yes, because that’s what Christ did for us.
Hey Beth, You and I disagree on this. I think sexual orientation is far different physiologically and psychologically than any sort of “liar orientation.”
Thanks for commenting, though.
Then I’m afraid you missed the point of my post. It’s not about “liar orientation.” It’s about the inherent sinful nature of all humans and the need for grace from a savior and extending that grace to our fellow man. We should not disagree on that. If we do, our problems run far deeper than worrying about whether or not homosexuality is a sin…God will be the judge of that, not me.
Thank you for re-explaining. My apologies. And thanks for commenting.
I think that I agree with you statement, if we are talking about original design. One of the things that we often forget is that not only does Scripture teach that humanity is created in the image of God, but also that that image has been distorted and warped by sin, and that includes all of our faculties: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.
From birth, I was born with a genetic proclivity for alcoholism and drug addiction, because it runs through many generations of my family. From very early on, I had stirrings in this direction. Those stirrings within myself, even though they were internal, were ultimately destructive when acted upon. I understand this is a loose analogy to sexual orientation, and I also know that this issue is visceral for many people (including my sister) and much more nuanced… but the point is that not everything that we encounter in our natural order is good. I am a heterosexual male, and by design I was created for intimate union with women… however, what happens if no woman finds me attractive enough to marry, should I act on those sexual urges outside of the context of marriage, or do I live according to the restraints that God has put forth in his word. Or if I have an illness or injury that inhibits me from ever acting on those natural urges…what then?
There are many people, both hetero and homo sexual that ultimately will lead celibate lifestyles, some by choice, and others not by choice as a result of their Scriptural interpretations, genetics, illness, appearance etc. Scripture states that both marriage and celibacy in singleness are virtuous, and while Scripture celebrates human sexuality, it does not promise this as the paramount experience for all people. This is difficult to accept, particularly in a culture that is fixated on the “now” and has lost sight of eternity. It is only in light of eternity and the potential for Christ’s return at any moment that Paul urges Corinthians who can do so to remain single and focused on serving the Lord whole-heartedly.
Ultimately, I think that we have to parse between orientation and behavior because “orientation” is a contemporary cultural construct (the word expressing a particular truth) whereas Scripture often times is silent on orientation (leaving room for it) and the emotional world of its characters yet is explicit in its treatment of behaviors.
Thank you for the post, I appreciated it as a whole. I am following an organization called Love Boldly seeking reconciliation between the LGBT community and traditional Christians, and these are issues I am trying to wrestle through right now.
Timothy. Your ‘God given’ nature, and everyone’s, is full of ‘orientations’ that you are not allowed to act on. As a male with a Y chromosome and testosterone, your orientation is to have sex a lot more frequently than you are actually allowed to do so. Allowed meaning either before you are married it is clearly forbidden by God, or after you are married it is just as clearly forbidden with anyone except your wife. This orientation you have is genetic and yet you are forbidden to act on it in most ways and times that you feel the need to do so.
If you would say that is not the same thing as being gay and never being able to legitimately act on an orientation, then what about those who never marry, male or female? They too have a legitimate, genetically derived orientation and need that they can never legitimately act on, at least if you believe the bible. It doesn’t mean their orientation is a sin, though.
And for those whose genetic orientation IS in some way a sin, like pedophiles, or liars, or narcissists, or psychopaths … they had these natures from birth, perhaps genetically, is it fair that they can never act upon their ‘orientation’? Is it a given that God made them this way or is it possible that they are they this way because the universe if fallen and defective? Something to think about.
Yeah, I reject this thinking. Thank you for posting, though.
Maybe this warrants a post to itself, and the comment thread is not the place for such a discussion, but I would like to hear your reasons for this statement: “I cannot imagine God creating me with an orientation that I wasn’t to act on.”
I for one have struggled with this issue. For many years I dismissed biblical interpretations prohibiting homosexuality as being an irrelevant Old Testament law that did not apply to Christian Gentiles. But now I’m not so sure. I sympathize for gays and do not tolerate discrimination or homophobia. But is it possible they are called to chastity? Must all intimate (even romantic) relationships be consummated? Aren’t straight people also called to chastity except when married? I would love to hear your thoughts.
As far as “hate the sin, love the sinner,” I agree it is lazy shorthand. But it is true to some extent. For anyone struggling with sin, we should love and support them. But it doesn’t change the fact that a sin is a sin. Sometimes we lose sight that we are all sinners, and it’s easy to point out others’ sins and forget our own. (Isn’t the root of “hypocrite” “above judgment”?) But it’s not as if we should stop teaching that certain thoughts, words, acts, and omissions are sinful.
Thanks for the question and comment.
I’ll try to answer briefly.
I think people can feel a call to chastity, both hetero and homosexual in orientation. I just don’t believe that just because you’re gay you should be forced into celibacy and denied the ability for the church to affirm your orientation.
I also think that, technically, you can love people and hate sin. But it’s just never used apart from orientation. I also feel that we can’t draw such clear distinctions between sinner/saintliness.
We are always both.
Interesting post. I agree that from a semantics standpoint, it may not be comforting for someone to hear the specific words ‘It’s all in God’s plan’ when something terrible has happened. That being said, a better way to phrase it in my opinion is, ‘God is in control.’ I have had that mentioned to me during times of trouble and it encouraged me. It’s a better way of saying it but I think the message is important at times like that, because if He isn’t in control then people are just dying or getting sick or whatever for no reason at all whatsoever and that is a helpless feeling. So, I agree that the way you say it should be monitored but I do feel that reinforcing that God knows what He is doing in tough times is still important. It can just be said a little better, that’s all. Have a great day!
Thanks for commenting, Brian. I also think it’s important to reinforce that God walks with us through tough times.
Wow, what is with this bizarre focus on the cursing part of this? It’s as though people are reading this post and completely avoiding the painful/uncomfortable part, which is about the things we as Christians say that are hurtful, unscriptural, and just plain off-the-mark from what Christ was talking about. If you’re about to post about Tim’s cursing, please, please, please, just stop, and re-read the article, and deal with the profound questions he raises. You’re going for the easy stuff, and not dealing with the challenging part. C’mon. You can do it. 🙂
Ha, thanks Keith. I think it is indicative of the common definition of sin to focus on the small nuance in order to ignore the important issues.
Who knew Screwtape Letters wasn’t fiction?
I have to disagree with the comments about sexual identity. We need to clearly warn people about sin, as God defines it. My natural inclination is to pursue multiple sex partners. If I were to do so, I hope my fellow Christians would confront and warn me. So, yes I love my homosexual friends AND I express that love by warning them of God’s words on their behavior. That does not mean I hate them or treat them differently than others.
Thanks, David. It’s clear we don’t agree on this issue, and there are a variety of interpretations on what “God’s word” says on the issue (I wouldn’t have chosen that sort of phrasing, I think).
I think my natural inclination is to not go after any partners again. Marriage is tough 🙂
Thanks for commenting and reading!
So, engaging in adultery, fornication, and homosexuality is not sinful?
Can you back that up?
Hey arthur, I never wrote that. I expressed that David and I don’t agree on the issue.
I think using sexuality in a way that does not respect the fact that it is a gift with responsibility is sinful.
I do not agree that homosexuality is sinful. That view comes from Biblical interpretation, text criticism, and thoughtful study…and is too complicated for this post.
In short, the word “homosexual” doesn’t appear in Scripture. And I’ll reaffirm that Paul had no idea what orientation was…no one of that time did.
A place that might offer you some resources for how someone could be Christian and believe monogamous homosexuality (like monogamous heterosexuality) is not sinful can be found at: http://affirmingword.wordpress.com/
Another helpful resource would be “The Sins of Scripture” by John Shelby-Spong, as well as “Falling to Grace” by Jay Bakker…and about a thousand other good books on the subject.
To be honest, telling people that heterosexuality is somehow morally “better” is hate speech, and although you might take a “don’t hate the sinner; hate the sin” attitude… those teachings empower bullies and help ensure that LGBT youth will continue facing huge rates of bullying, familial rejection (being disowned), and being driven to suicide. Given that there are much less homophobic interpretations of the Christian biblical canon, why follow an interpretation that causes so much harm for the benefit of no one?
Thanks, Annetta. A great point.
Because God said it is immoral for men to lie with other men, just like He said it is wrong for men to lie with their widowed stepmoms.
Temptation is not an excuse. And yes, we are tempted to excuse our immoral conduct on the basis of the underlying temptation.
It’s obvious that we don’t agree on this issue. Thank you for your respectful tone, and thanks for commenting.
As a fellow pastor, I really appreciate this post. The only one I’d want to nuance is #5. My wife, who is also a pastor, has some members of her congregation who speak very inappropriately to her. She has gotten to the point where it is necessary for her to tell them “It is not Christian to speak to me in that tone of voice.”
In all the examples you’ve given, I think you are right. But there are also legitimate times when people needed to be called out for failing to live in love and peace with one another. If the church can’t be that kind of community, then we have failed.
Hey JB, I understand what you mean. One thing I might say, in this case, would be “The things that you are saying don’t remind me of Christ.” I think that might be a helpful distinction.
Thanks for commenting!
There are situations that prompt loud and hasty exclamations, but cursing which includes the name of any of the Trinity with vile words are sinful. These are listed as sins and the consequences are clearly stated, i.e. Matthew. 12:36, 37. Clean up your mouth and your mind and learn to use the language with more skill to define your anger or your joy, as the case may be.
I could write a thesis on these and other phrases commonly used to define Christian behavior. But back to the cursing–Christians shouldn’t!
Wow, Gayle. Sorry to offend. I really want to stress: this blog isn’t about cursing. And sometimes I think Christians should cuss. We obviously don’t agree on this. Thanks for posting, though.
I know this was posted last year, but I just wanted to comment on this. If Christians shouldn’t cuss, then they need to understand it’s the intent with which they use a word that determines whether or not it’s cursing. To say “SHOOT!” in place of sh*t is still cursing. The intent in both sentences is the same. When my fellow Christians stop substituting “ok” words as curses, I’ll stop cussing. Until then, I’ve got a point to make.
Wonderful thoughts. A small thing, perhaps unimportant, but because it conveys meaning “the people they AFFECT” (that is the people they have an EFFECT upon!). Isn’t English a crazy language?
Ha! Thomas, you found it. There is always at least one (in this case, probably more) grammatical mistake. My copy editor is non-existent.
Thank you. As a young adult with a cancer diagnosis, I can personally attest to the hurtfulness of #1. In my support group, one of the things that we’ve come back to time and again is that there’s just really no good thing to say in response to the cancer situation, and, speaking as a formerly incredibly gung-ho Christian, “it’s all in God’s plan” is probably one of the worst. Somehow, it’s akin to “you should feel honored that God has chosen you for this ridiculous form of suffering so that I can grow to be a better person.”
Personally, I think that crying out profanities with me is the most appropriate response I’ve come across yet.
Hey Jenn, thanks for sharing your testimony. Many prayers for you on this journey. I stand with you in cursing.
I have never been much of a swearer. My kids, who are now adults, do not swear in front of me because they know that I consider it rude. As we discussed their reading material as they were growing up, I made a distinction between vulgarity, blasphemy, and abusive language.
Now I work at a college and I react differently from hearing someone talk about their “f—king great weekend” or the “girl they “f—ked last week”. I’d really not hear it at all, but the second comment is like a slap.
This blog isn’t really about swearing. And as someone who doesn’t much care for that word, I agree with you. But sometimes there’s not much else to be said on some points.
Thanks for commenting.
This is spot on, thank you! 100% agree with all of the above. Especially as a Christian who’s a future yoga teacher. With tattoos. Who occasionally swears. 😉
Ha, thanks! Many blessings. I hope to get another tattoo pretty soon…
Homesclmom: Praise God and all the Angels and Saints! The only difference between you and me is that I’m an old codger and you are not. I swear uncontrollably when on the Pickleball court, BUT, apologize immediately afterward. I also Praise God profusely when I make a good shot. There are some who say God doesn’t give a damn if I play well or not, but I argue that God wants me to be happy. I have a tattoo of kissing dolphins AND I have a lesbian daughter who I love and adore and is the best mother in the world. I am so grateful to Timothy Brown for, after all these years, correcting my thinking about loving the “sinner”, but hating the sin. God lovingly created ALL of us, including our sexual orientation. I can now say that I love my daughter with no “buts”! HOORAY!
This clearly pleases the world.
Hmmm…no sure. But thanks for reading and commenting!
You are a pastor? And you are teaching on things with the foundation of “not sure” – ?
I think pastors too often state with certitude those things that they question. I’d just rather be upfront about it.
The specifics of my “not sure” (actually, I typed too fast and it was “no sure”) comment was because I’m not certain what you mean by “like by the world.”
Nice piece, and I’m happy to see it picked up by Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented on Facebook. Recent research also suggests that cursing can actually reduce the length and severity of pain. As long as you don’t go “full-Newsweek” about it: http://jmcpherson.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/newsweek-opts-for-immature-profanity-over-depth/
Ha, love this! Thanks, James!
And thank you. I just read it aloud to my wife. Like me, she especially enjoyed the line, “She’s just have to say no.”
I love them all, especially 1 and 2. There is no “plan,” believing that there was caused me much harm, psychologically and spiritually. And 99% of everything ever said about “God’s will” is pure b.s. The only good thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about God’s will is that it is love, nothing more, nothing less.
Agree! Thanks, Steve! And thanks for commenting!
There is no plan? What do you mean? How were you hurt by believing there was a plan? How do you know God’s will is love?
Wow! Great article. Thank you. IME, my “good Christian friends” deserted me when I was in crisis. I was not doing things right or whatever. Or I needed to do xyz. How very sad. My daughter is gay, clearly I did something wrong. My 21 year old son shot himself August 2010, clearly I did something wrong.
The ones who stuck by me, held me up, were and are the “bad Christians” the ones who are real, whom we share our struggles, the ones I can call on when I am riding another wave of grief. The ones who remember how difficult mother’s day is for me, who will remember our family on the 2nd anniversary of my son’s death. Who remember us each holiday knowing we have an empty chair at the table. THOSE are the people I love, adore and see Christ in.
Amen, Lisa! Thanks for commenting. And many blessings to you and your family.
That cannot be easy. Your strength and love for your family is something that should be emulated.
I enjoyed that! Although some of the nit-picking comments were just so…nit-picky. I’m sure there are many people who have used these phrases in hopes of encouraging someone. Unfortunately, the message that the encourage-ee might actually hear is “Oops..you’re doing this wrong! Back up a little bit and doing it the way God and I want you to, and then maybe you’ll be okay.” Which is somehow not an encouragement at all. And to me, that’s really the point.
Right. We all make mistakes. I worry that some people who may have used these phrases might be feeling guilty. It’s ok. I’ve used each one of these phrases over my life…I’ve just learned a bit from it. Thanks, Christi!
And as far as the cussing goes, my daughter says it’s all in the outward inflection and the inward intention…purple! lampshade!! yogurt!!! She tells me that she “cusses” regularly in front of the small children she works with. 🙂
Thanks for your thoughts and for the very caring ways you are responding to everyone. I also cringe when hearing ‘it’s God’s will/plan’. God walks *with* me in sorrow and transforms me in my journey through grief. There are times when I am very angry with God about all that’s going very wrong in the world. I figure God can handle my anger. Lament psalms comfort me in being so honest with God.
Amen! Thanks, BJ!
Just want to take a moment for sharing your thoughts. Having been on the receiving end of it I especially appreciate #1.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Tammi! Blessings.
FUCKING A-RIGHT! As a trans person, I’ve heard that “love the sinner” phrase so many times. As if to say that it’ll make everything a-okay, because I’ll obviously stop being a woman if I hear that they “love” me enough times… which is funny considering the fact that someone in a conversation told me that they knew I “cared deeply” for my partner, to which I thought about responding “You REALLY don’t know the definition of the world ‘love’, do you?” Thank you for writing this!
Grace and peace to you!
Many blessings, Christina. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your journey with us!
Wow. Love this post! As a Christian who also happens to be a writer that often writes about decidedly “un-Christian” things (I’m currently working on a romance/love triangle story between a pastor, a lawyer, and the ex-wife of a deacon), I so get you on every one of these. But, especially the first one. What? You can’t be a Christian and messed up at the same time. Religion is process, a lifestyle. You don’t go to bed screwed and wake up perfect. I’m not even sure most of the people who say these things even read the bible. If they do, I think they’re missing the point…
Totally agreed. And I look forward to your book! Please let me know when it drops. I’m pretty sure it’s probably non-fiction 🙂
🙂 Will do… (And, all I’ll say is if someone should see his/herself in anything in this book, it’s purely coincidental. LOL!) Feel free to check my site for information and an excerpt: http://jennettegray.wordpress.com)
Reblogged this on lifeofjennie.
No comment,but hope you have a good day man!!
You too, Brian! Blessings.
God…in my perception, always says “Yes”.
So “Have a ______ day.” Well, tis up to the individual in my humble opinion.
One’s vicious words in one’s head directed toward others and Self might need to be the ones brought into the Light.
Oh, and when I am in ecstacy, I say “Oh Gawd”.
Another can not assume to tell me what I mean by a simple word, you can’t see my spelling. So there.
When i am stressed, I swear. Thanks God (which is everywhere), because I know when I hear my utterance, it’s time to spend more time with my Free Will, choosing to say thanks for what is Grand in my life. I am in Gratitude for a Great Blog. I admire your centered responses. You embody Christ in my opinion and only due to that ability. Have a superb and blessed life.
Ahhh…. as a fellow reluctant xer i am so glad ti have found your blog. I appreciate that you captured the top five…
Many thanks, Lynnie! Blessings on your day.
You lost me at #4. Absolutely love the sinner – love them to repentance – but don’t condone the sinful actions. By your logic, I love the alcoholic only if I accept that the tendency to drink himself to oblivion is simply who he is. I love my friend having an affair and I accept that who she is is someone “in love with” a man not her husband. Nope, love the sinner enough to bring them to repentance and into fellowship with God, don’t accept sinful actions as simply being ‘who they are”.
I think we need to come to an agreement as a society that sexual orientation and addictions/psychological problems/fetishes are different.
Likewise, we need to make a distinction between behavior and orientation. I think that, had Paul known about orientation, he would have written differently about it.
(And before anyone inundates this column with “Paul didn’t write it, God did!” lets just agree to disagree about that part).
So, don’t stay with an abusive wife/husband, don’t allow your friend to live as an alcoholic to the extent that you can change them, and don’t lump either of those two with sexual orientation, please.
I don’t think that is something we are going to agree on. I might have agreed with you 10 years ago but I have come full circle in my understanding.
I never wondered why Paul didn’t write about “sexual orientation” but if you were to ask me, I woudn’t guess it was because he didn’t know about it. I would suggest his writing was to encourage / discourage our actions and habits. He knew we all wrestled with emotions and impulses so he didn’t write about them as wrong.
I realise this is only one of our points but it stopped me.
I found this post via twitter. I wish there were more Christians like you in the world. Thank you for this post. My husband and I got a chuckle and nod out of several parts (though we are not Christian ourselves). I was wondering if you’d read this article? http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/04/18/wtf-study-shows-swearing-reduces-pain/ Rather an eye-opener when it comes to swearing 😀 Anyway, I think I’ll be reading the rest of your blog. Thanks for being kind.
Ha, thanks Hottie. You’re the second person to recommend that article to me!
Thanks for reading and commenting.
This is a beautiful post – thank you for saying these things. I get so embarrassed by some of the awfulness I that’s spoken in the name of Jesus that I sometimes hesitate to think of myself as a “Christian” at all. This was just what I needed to hear today – thanks so much 🙂
You’re most welcome, Candace!
Great post. Socially and culturally, I suppose I am a “Christian”. My family and I celebrate Christmas and Easter, and are fairly well-versed on the basic Christian teachings. However, I gave up that descriptor long ago theologically, in part because of the these 5 phrases (and others) that kept coming at me, and which I could not accept. Thank you for such a balanced and helpful post, which I hope every Christian and non-Christian out there ponders carefully. I also want to mention that my more recent, creedless faith of Unitarian-Universalism once had a bumper sticker that said, “Honk If You’re Not Sure” so based on one of your other comments today, I think you’ve got the right idea. Thanks again for sharing these thoughts!
Reblogged this on A Fresh Start.
You’ll find no mention of free will in the Bible (other than a free will offering). We our dead in our sin with no way to come to the Father until the Spirit draws us (John 3 & 6) If we’re going to say it’s all “free will”, what about those who never hear the Gospel? None come to the Father but through the Son. Somewhere, somehow through God’s sovereign will someone brought you the good news and the spirit gave you life. No longer a slave to sin, but a slave of God.
I think that the part that I most enjoyed out of this was the “It’s all part of God’s plan” one. I have heard that so much from my church-going friends, and you’re right- it’s not very comforting. Thanks for sharing; marvelous.
Thank you so much for this post. I can relate to it in so many ways!!
I have a couple more phrases to add:
1). “I’m speaking the truth in love/saying this because I love you.” This is a precursor to a Christian brother or sister telling you how they think you’re failing at being a Christian, or some other judgment of your life. This phrase then absolves them of just being a rude, judgmental a-hole.
2). “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” I beg to differ. My 8-year-old daughter had a choking accident last year and now has brain damage due to lack of oxygen. She almost didn’t make it, and after she pulled through we were told she might never walk, talk, or recognize us again (she is making slow but steady progress, but we have a long way to go). This is something I cannot handle. I couldn’t handle it when she was lying in the PICU. I couldn’t handle it when they gave us really, really horrible news and had to make impossible choices. Nope. Can’t handle any of this. The only reason I am not a complete basket case on a regular basis is because I stand firm on my faith (and an anti-depressant helps A LOT). But, in no way do I think God gave this to me because he thought I could handle almost losing my daughter, and now, dealing with her severe disabilities.
Thanks for letting me add my two cents. 🙂
Thanks for your testimony, Melissa. Many blessings!
He does not.
Mankind takes more than they can handle.
Yes!!! I hate the “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” line. Anyone who has known a suicide victim knows this is crap. I think this list and the comments really speak to what’s gone so wrong in churches – they jump to slogans and fun phrases you can buy printed on mugs but there’s often little thought or depth when it comes to real issues. A little bumper sticker bandaid for gaping wounds.
Thank you for this blog. I found it through a series of degrees of separation on Facebook. I, myself, am Jewish, but was intrigued by the title. Knowing the friend who posted it, I had to read the article. I’m so glad I did. This list applies to Judaism as well (I wont speak for other religions, but I believe it could apply to some others also). Just switch out a few words here and there and the points are equally as valid. In my opinion, religion is about love and being the best person you can be, the dogma/hallachah which guides a person in their actions is more a matter of semantics. Your list reflects a great deal of love and respect for your fellow humans out there. I’m so honored to have happened upon this article! Thank you for your insight – it is universal.
I’m trying to wrap my head around #4. Are you saying we should love sin just because a person claims it is part of who they are?
No. It’s not subjective. I don’t think that I claim I’m a heterosexual…I am a heterosexual.
I don’t see how that is an answer. It’s either yes or no. Heterosexuality is not mentioned as a sin in the Bible except out of wedlock. I’m talking about sin, those things that God despises. What about pedophiles? Or serial rapists or murderers? That is what makes them who they are, isn’t it?
So, I would say lumping my homosexuality into a category that also refers to “rapists” and “pedophiles” is really insulting and disgusting.
I know you think you’re talking about sin, but you’re talking about orientation. And orientation is not sinful. For a helpful word on this, check out: http://affirmingword.wordpress.com/
“So, I would say lumping my homosexuality into a category that also refers to “rapists” and “pedophiles” is really insulting and disgusting. I know you think you’re talking about sin, but you’re talking about orientation. And orientation is not sinful. For a helpful word on this, check out: http://affirmingword.wordpress.com/”
I’m sure some, if not most pedophiles would say that they’re oriented to like children instead of adults; and the Bible never outright calls out pedophilia does it? (It kind of does in the Torah, but we’re clearly throwing that out to justify homosexuality.) So, if a pedophile was in a monogamous relationship with a child, it’s all good?
I don’t like to quote Paul because not all of Paul’s works can be traced straight back to him. So, I’ll use the words that the Bible records from Jesus on the matter. (And since some question the authenticity of Matthew, I’ll also use Mark for this purpose)
Jesus says in Chapter 7
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
So these things are described as evil. Fornication is mentioned there. Now, to note your idea that monogamous same-sex relationships are ‘ok’, I’ll offer another quote;
Jesus says in Mark 10
5 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. 6 But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female. 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
So, fornication is evil and marriage from the beginning was male and female. So monogamous or not, it’s clearly defined as evil, as sex outside of marriage is fornication. Being that from the beginning, marriage was a male and a female, there’s really no way to justify homosexual activity as anything but fornication.
Thus it is evil, it is sin. Twist it all you like, but to do so is to deprive those who would follow Christ a true relationship with Him and with God. As John 9 says “”We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him.”. How can someone have a relationship with God if they are actively ‘in sin’? All sin and fall short of God, but to remain in unrepentant sin and return to it, is to willingly separate yourself from God. I’ll very gladly share this to be the truth, as I struggled with pornography and lust for a number of years, wondering why I would pray and never feel like God heard me. When I REPENTED (turned away from) and left my sin behind, I began a relationship with God like I never knew before.
Pedophilia is not a sexual orientation, it is a deviation. You can’t be “oriented” toward children. The American Psychiatric Association continues to call pedophilia a deviation, but removed homosexuality in 1973.
All of your Biblical citations are fine. Jesus is indeed calling fornication as something sinful, I would agree. Fornication is using sexuality in a way that does not respect its power.
And, actually, there are many who would translate the Greek words that are commonly (and mistakenly) translated as “homosexual” in the NT as a word describing cultic pedophilia.
Regardless, thank you for sharing your story. Pornography is a very clear example of people using their sexuality without regard to the responsibility it holds. It is indeed right to acknowledge that “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Repentance is good and necessary; I repent of many things every day. But if I were homosexual, I would not repent of it.
I really encourage you to look at that blog and check out the material. You will see where I am coming from on it, even if you don’t agree.
But please, don’t equate pedophilia and homosexuality. Here is a helpful study on the subject from the University of California at Davis: http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_molestation.html
So while he’s obviously confused about the difference between relationships involving consenting adults and those involving criminals and victims, it does sound like he is making an excellent biblical argument in favor of gay marriage.
Hmmm…I hadn’t looked at it that way, James. Excellent point.
Wow. This is such a refreshing, thoughtful piece of writing. I enjoyed it so much.
In all Honesty… if people find this post post offensive… the author should find the commenters offensive. Don’t read it then. Or do– and learn from it. Or write your own blog.
Wonder why this example wasn’t pointed out:
Me: “The Bible clearly says homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals need to repent of it.”
Response: “You can’t judge homosexuals! It isn’t Christian!”
No, that really does happen.
Honestly, this is one of the stupidest blog posts I’ve ever read. Read James 3 sometime. This tongue you curse with was made to praise God. Do you think God really wants to hear your praises after you’ve been using it to utter vile, contemptuous words? It’s like licking the toilet bowl and then kissing your wife.
As to your cursing in the face of tragedy and pain, exactly where do you think those things come from? Who is sovereign over those things? God causes the sun to shine on the evil and the good and the rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous. So when you curse these events, you are really cursing God. That should give you pause to reconsider your call for more cursing. It might even make you want to tame that filthy tongue of yours, “pastor.” Hey — why don’t you put your money where your mouth is (no pun intended) and try cursing more during your Sunday sermons or when you officiate a funeral. See how well that would go over.
It wasn’t pointed out because, well, I don’t think it’s correct.
…and I obviously reject the idea that God causes pain in the world. We really really have dropped the ball on helping people think critically about the implications of believing that God causes everything to happen piece by piece. That idealization is more akin to Zeus than the Judeo-Christian God.
To deny that God causes pain in the world is to deny Scripture and God Himself. The Father did not even spare His own Son from suffering and it pleased Him to do so. There are many, many verses about God bringing suffering, calamity, persecution and pain upon us in order to glorify Himself through us. God DOES cause everything to happen. That’s what His being sovereign means! Zeus? Zeus clearly was NOT sovereign.
God does not cause pain and suffering, but he does allow it to happen. This is found all throughout the Bible. Anyone who does not believe that is living in some kind of make-believe Christian world. God gives free will. We make decisions in our lives that effect us eventually in life, whether it be by the company we keep or what we put into our bodies. And sometimes, as with the story of Job, bad things happen to good people. Can God control that? Of course He can, but how would we learn anything if our lives were perfect? The answer is, we wouldn’t; we would become brats, like Adam and Eve. And as another Christian friend stated to me recently, “We live in a fallen world. But most bad things that happen are a result of man’s rebellion and bad choices and sin, and there are consequences for that sin. We can’t leave out that we have an enemy, Satan, and the Word tells us that he is also the prince of the power of the air, and he is at work to kill, steal and destroy and uses rebellious men for his purposes. “
You try to make some good points, and there is a measure of truth in there in the right context, but I have to say, your whole article borders on a presentation of living a watered-down heretical version of the Gospel message.
You have very succintly pointed out and labelled in neon lights the picture of the last days Laodocian church as described by Jesus in The Revelation. As you know, he said, “…your lukewarm approach to the gospel makes me vomit, and I would rather you be hot or cold….” (His words!)
You will probably attract scores of semi-committed, lukewarm, spineless, or half-hearted Believers and even New Agers with this type of casual, lets-not-tell-it-or-live it-like-we-should Gospel. But, throughout the New Testament specifically, Jesus was very forthright and direct about matters of right and wrong and living a conduct that was not aligned with living like the world around you….and yes that included, not cursing,…or at its very basics, not making a joke about it even when you do.
God is a very Holy God, seeking and desiring a spotless Bride, not a foul-mouthed barfly….He is not our buddy.
Do not dance with the devil…he will trip you up.
I have no illusions that God is “my buddy;” quite far from it. I think that you and I don’t agree on a many number of things, the least of which is your interpretation of what I’ve written as “watered down.” In fact, I might even suggest that such interpretations that fail to see the complexity in balancing scripture and human experience, weighing and judging one against the other, is living a watered down spiritual life. The Bible hasn’t always been taken literally, you know…
And Martin Luther cursed, and I think he did alright in many respects (he was also an ass in many respects).
By the way, cursing wasn’t the point of this article. Amazed, still, at all the people who are bothered by the cursing.
Thanks for commenting, Gary.
I think individual passages, not expounded, can skew folks all over the map….
Both passages are correct or God would not have placed them in the Bible. Everything is in there for a specific reason.
In this regard, context is key.: Acts 13.39 is Paul explaining to The Jews and the Gentiles on his first missionary journey that the core and supremacy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the message of the eternal forgiveness of sin by faith) over that of the Law of Moses;…..while in Mark 3.28 this is a passage where Jesus is being accused by the Jewish leaders as getting his power from Satan;….hence, because he was a physical human man, filled and led by The Holy Spirit, the religious leaders were in fact calling the Holy Spirit in Jesus, Satanl!!….in other words calling God himself, Satan…… That might just buy you some Lake of Fire time!
The issue of lukewarmness stems from not fully deciding in your mind that Christ really is, The Way, the Truth, and The Life; and deciding to get with the program and live it out. One might think, ‘there might be something just a little better down the road; let me check out a few things’….As we know in the scriptures there were some followers of Christ and even the apostles who “fell away” from the faith. The parable of the various types of soils in Matthew says the same thing.
Lukewarmness is more like an uncommitted husband or wife in a marriage. You have to make a conscious decision that he or she is worthy, come hell or high water, and you will honor your committment to the end…whatever that may be. When God sees your heart in that mindset, he will move Heaven and Earth on your behalf…and lukewarmness will not be an issue.
Your welcome..interesting site and commentary…even for those of us who can disagree.! 🙂
The reason so many of us seem to be lukewarm is because of these two passages from the NIV.
 “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you  Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.
 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,  but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
Which one is correct?
Or, does the answer lie somewhere in between?
Thanks for listening to my question.
I meant to reply to you here….see above.
Ah, but you leave out so many relevant scriptures, such as 1 John 3:4-10, where he explains that one who is born of God will not continue to sin, and he who does continue to sin does not know God. While we are forgiven, God expects us to do our best to turn away from those sins that drag us down. This is also relevant to the issue of “hanging out with other Christians,” rather than continuing to keep ourselves surrounded by unbelievers who will cause us to sin. Then there is John 8, when Christ was confronted by the teachers of the law concerning the woman accused of adultery. When no one accused her, He instructed her to “Go now and leave your life of sin.” There are other scriptures similar. Taking scripture out of context is why the Word is not understood by so many. Anyone can read the Bible. Studying it is when you begin to understand it, and so many new Christians aren’t doing that; they are just listening to what they’re told instead of really looking into it themselves.
I have noticed that Tim does collect a lot of non-believers and doubters on his blog, it’s almost like he’s sharing God with people other than Christians. Why would a pastor do that?
I’d like to point out a phrase that kills me every time “God is good”. Specifically when Christians use this after they have been treated well or given something amazing by people around them. This bothers me because they are completely forgetting the small people who made their decisions to help, who have kindness in their hearts, and did it because they love their fellow man. I am not a Christian and I am good to people because I love them and it’s the right thing to do, but hearing that phrase makes it seem like I am just a “tool”, a zombie fulfilling God’s plan for THEM, a God that I don’t even believe in. I might as well not be involved. I just wish Christians would be inspired by the human spirit and not mistake it for the Christian God’s love for them all the time. It’s a little selfish.
It’s not inspiring for me to think this infallible omnipotent creator did something nice for me, but thinking about lots of ordinary strangers from all walks of life and faiths coming together to do something good… THAT’S inspiring to me, that’s humbling, that’s amazing. There are so many people who aren’t Christians who commit random acts of kindness for no other reason than the good of their community or the love in their hearts, and that phrase completely negates the power of loving human interaction. If not all evil is from God, than not all good is either. People do absolutely amazing things, even the ones who aren’t Christians. I felt this fit into the whole theme of your blog because it was about bringing back the human being in our interactions and allowing ourselves to be flawed and connect with each other. I desperately hope for this.
I loved the whole blog. I didn’t like the comments, but some were supportive and I love to see Christians being Christ-like and embracing others. There is so much we can learn from each other.
Thank you for sharing this. I’ve had very similar thoughts myself over cursing verses the hurtful comment that wounds a person and embeds in their psyche as a negative they carry with them. Your post is very thoughtful, and I like the emphasis on how we treat each other versus the often legality of what isn’t suppose to be a religion of law anymore.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and opinions. You bring up some good things for people to think about and ponder when it comes to language . I have found as christians we can sometimes quickly cause harm without intention thru poor choice in words.
This was a pretty interesting article and all, but I think you’re missing a very important idea in your view point here. It seems that you base your opinions and ideas on life more on what seems right, what feels right, and what you think should be right, and then if the Bible has anything to say on the matter, well, then that’s cool too. From my experience, the people I’ve known and talked to, it’s much harder to understand life when your primary method of ascertaining truth is your own brain. We have number 1, the Bible, a source of absolute truth in physical form, and number 2, the Holy Spirit Himself through whom God oftentimes can reveal His own will to man. Saying things like “I don’t feel like this should be true” or something like that is not really a valid argument for anything. So while I appreciate your intellectualism and also your spiritual mindedness, throwing out phrases like “people can’t stomach” certain ideas doesn’t make any sense. Does that mean it’s not true for them, or not true at all? Does that mean it’s rude to try to explain that to them if they happen to ask or something? No. You have to have your priorities straight, and if telling someone the truth will help them be a better person and understand God and themselves more, then who cares if it was an uncomfortable idea to struggle with??? People go through uncomfortable stuff all the time, and struggle with ideas every day. And if, through God’s help, you can come out on the other side knowing more about who you are and who God is, then you’ve won out the day. I think it’s easy to get into the mindset of preferring other people’s feelings over truth, and that can be dangerous. While it’s still wrong to just trample on people’s emotions while being brutally and unnecessarily honest, there are many times where things just come down to brass tax, and you gotta tell people what’s what, and guess what? It’s the truth, and it doesn’t matter what you “feel” about anything. Because honestly, I’ve had many times where people told me stuff about myself that I though was totally untrue, and I thought it was really rude of them to tell me that. Afterwards I talked with God a lot and read my Bible, and I felt convicted. I looked back upon the incident and couldn’t have seen any other way of that person telling me what they did. I needed to be sternly spoken to, because otherwise, I never would’ve needed to grapple with it so much, cuz I would’ve just brushed it off as that person’s opinion and nothing more. Sorry for the ramble there, not trying to write another blog on your blog here. Anyways, interesting post, but I would suggest keeping God’s word in mind waaaaaay more in the future. Especially as a pastor, it falls upon you more than most people to make sure you don’t lead others astray, since you’ve been placed in a teaching and leading position.God bless.
Amen on #1! That’s one (in a different form) that people across all faiths seem to have in common (instead of “it’s God’s will” they just say “everything happens for a reason” – GAH!). And it’s horrifying.
I LOVE this. I grew up in a Christian household but no longer follow the faith. I attempt to understand some of the reasoning some may have for saying the statements you listed. I don’t get why many Christians can’t follow the Commandment “Love thy neighbor”. That Commandment doesn’t specify a particular religious group, sexual orientation, race or gender.
In my personal opinion, I feel the most “Christian” thing a Christian could do is simply do as that Commandment says and “Love Thy Neighbor”. The rest then seems irrelevant.
We are all God’s children. God is good at everything and each of us express God in our own way. God broke the mold if you will after each of us were created.
A few more that I’m tired of hearing…
“I’m a Christian and…” followed by some self-righteous statement or authoritative/condemning message/commandment from Jesus or Jehovah. May also take the form of “The Lord told me….”
“The Bible says…” followed by the speaker’s paraphrase of a bible passage that may or may not exist and may or may not fit the topic at hand and often includes some prohibition/condemnation of behavior or thought. In a discussion about some important issue facing humankind that includes science, politics, religion, etc., “The Bible says…” means that the discussion is over because the bible trumps everything. It means that no further discussion is possible because god has spoken. It means that facts, data, and evidence are irrelevant and need not be examined in the face of biblical authority (or at least their interpretation of the bible).
“Jesus is the reason for the season,” meaning that xtians own the winter holiday and arrogantly forgetting or just plain ignorant of the fact that xtianity stamped its religion atop older pagan winter solstice rituals.
“All we can do is trust the Lord,” another variation of “It’s all in God’s plan,” in response to tragic/difficult situations as if this will fix everything and bring calm. Another variation is “Count it all joy,” quoting the bible verse in the epistle of James that tells xtians what to do when they encounter various trials. I heard a woman glibly say this to another woman who had miscarried.
“Have a blessed day.” Ugh! Groan! They should make the sign of the cross and sprinkle holy water on me as they say this. Mostly, I shake my head and say, “Thanks,” but when I’ve had a shitty day, I just want to tell them, “No thanks!” or “Please take your ‘blessed day’ put it up your ass.”
Point number 2 about God’s will made me pause and think. I come from a tradition that teaches that God has a very clear and specific plan for everyone – in every area. I havent always lived that way; I have always believed that choices that honor God are all that He desires, and your point seemed to be just that.
I am utterly suspicious of people who claim to be Christians aka followers of Christ and DON’T know God’s will. It is spelled out in the Bible! The 10 commandments (Exodus 20), go to all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). How to raise children (Proverbs). The Bible is God’s will, All scripture is God breathed and is used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good deed (2 Timothy 3:16).
We don’t agree, Katy. I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’re correct on this. We’re not going to agree. Thanks for sharing, though.
I have read many of your replies to posts here, tho not all, it seems that in a great majority you continue to violate the 2nd commandment. It seems a consistency in your replies that you are creating a God of your own design..you feel that God would not do this or such in such..I feel you are quite “off target” in doing this. The beauty of hermeneutics is finding the unchangeable truths of God that transcend time and are applicable at all times and events in life. God is very black and white as to what is right or wrong..it seemas as if there is MUCH grey areas in your theology..
Hey Melodie, I assure you I’m not trying to make a God of my own design…this God looks nothing like what I think should happen in the world.
I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t have grey in their theology.
Why does the inerrant, infallible Word of God contain conflicting ethics and morals?
A woman, caught in the act of adultery, is brought before Jesus (as a test) so He may determine her fate. Well, the Law is clear and unambiguous. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and yet He abolishes it.
Cognitive dissonance is fine, unless you’re looking for absolute answers.
How do you get absolute truth?
1) Translate the Bible so every human on the planet understands it *exactly* the same way
2) have to have someone interpret for you (their feelings)
3) interpret yourself (your own feelings)
If the answer is 2 or 3, then we find ourselves squarely in the middle of a subjectivity, which cannot be the case if the Bible is absolute truth.
True, there is an relationship between a person and his actions. However, it is totally anti-biblical to declare that we must look what is essentially a part of a person’s life. Jesus loves us all, but not our actions/sins. Jesus loved the immoral woman of John 8….In His love he told her to “go and sin no more”. This is just one of many examples…However, a thousand Biblical proofs will not convince a person who agrees with this article.
I meant to say, “However, it is totally anti-biblical to declare that we must love what is essentially a part of a person’s life.”
Interesting perspective. Number 5, “That’s not very Christian…” should never be said mainly because many of us have no clue what constitutes “being Christian.” I mean, I know what being a Christian means to ME, but determining what it means to you doesn’t concern me– that’s between you and God. As for the other four, every single one is doctrinally correct… but you’re right, we probably shouldn’t say them out loud.
I especially disagree, however, with your assessment of differentiating between the sin and the sinner. It is certainly possible to love a person and yet disapprove of their behavior. We’re told to be “wise as serpents and gentle as lambs” when reaching the lost world for Christ. The Bible is clear about right and wrong, and it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin and lead each in a right path. But Christians are not instructed to accept and tolerate continual unrepentant sinful behavior in others. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul reminds us that sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God. The list includes thieves, drunkards, and (sorry) homosexual offenders. When we’re washed in the Blood of Christ and sanctified to His service, we’re to leave those behaviors behind. We’re not doing anybody any favors by accepting and tolerating sin in the name of Christian love.
This was a great post. I agree with most of it. I am both a Christian and a scientist and readily admit that I struggle with parsing the sexuality debate. I am fully heterosexual but have several gay friends and attend a church that welcomes homosexuals. My struggle is that the Bible indicates in more than one place that the “act” of homosexual intercourse is less than desirable by God. Nature confirms this design as the primary purpose for the organs themselves, and their use, is reproduction; which can only happen with heterosexual intercourse. How, then, can we remain consistent with scripture if we condone the act as “ok”? It is logically inconsistent to say I believe this book…just not that part. I do believe the topic receives way too much press and has become more of a divisive issue in the church than anything else. I also believe that a homosexual disposition is far more an issue of psychological response to one’s environment than a physiological disposition. There are too many logical errors with the theory; even from an evolutionary perspective (I.e. lack of reproductive mechanism to sustain the trait, etc.). Always interested in hearing opposing logic though.
I would offer that Paul didn’t know about orientation. Had he, I think he would have written differently on the subject. Thanks for being open and honest with you’re commenting!
If you are only having sex to breed, your relationship might be in trouble. 😛 Lots of animals experience homosexual tendencies, especially our closest cousins the Bonabos and Chimps. But still, we aren’t animals and we use sex as more than just reproduction or the infertile would never be allowed to marry either. It’s a bonding process. A theory within group selection evolution posits that homosexuals – able bodied adults with no children of their own – were extremely helpful in caring for and helping raise the children increasing everyone’s chances at survival. Personally, I don’t know what the mechanisms are be they biological or social but I do know it’s far from unnatural as you can see it in many other species. And if see was just for babies women would all be like deer with breeding seasons and we’d only see you guys once a year ;P
I totally believe God is responsible for our pain. Is. 45:7
I think one verse doesn’t show and/or prove anything. Lots of historical-critical baggage there. Thanks for commenting and reading, though. Diverse opinions are welcome. Just sayin 🙂
We can totally go there. I’m an MA in OT and ANE at the Hebrew University. Will it make a difference we have the historical critical conversation?
Hey Aaron, no. I respect your seeking a degree. I have one as well. Many, in fact. I don’t think we’re going to agree on this. I probably have as much in my arsenal as you do….and I don’t have any desire for that. Thanks for posting.
That’s cool, though I have to wonder what the point of bringing up historical critical issues if they don’t actually make a difference.
I do think they mean a difference. What you site is poetry and prophecy, but it’s directed toward a specific people for a specific purpose…and is historically conditioned.
In short: I don’t think that you’re going to say anything that I haven’t already considered, and I’m not interested in having a fight so that you can show your degree chops. I’m sorry; that’s the honest truth. Thanks for commenting and reading.
In that case, I’d love to hear your understanding of the verse, since you’ve considered a range of possible meanings in context already.
Hey Aaron, thanks. Not interested. I appreciate your continued effort here, but I don’t play those games.
I don’t really think of biblical interpretation as a game, but I’ll leave you alone about it. Good night, and no hard feelings.
Thanks, Aaron. A sign of respectability. And I think that often times these “site and interpret” things do turn into games…whether they should or not, that is a good question. I just fear we’ll go back and forth to no avail, and I’m not interested in that. Thank you.
Good thoughts. I especially like the last one about God’s plan. However I think you missed an opportunity to explain why bad things happen.
Then the third phrase is a taken out of context. While I agree that some Christians do segregate themselves, I think the real point of this phrase is that we do need a support group that will encourage us when things get tough. And it definitely will in the mission field if any ministry. The key is to be out in the field to feed but the group will feed you. Barnaby’s and Timothy analogy.
What a precious way to put the truth of things. A very easy to understand clarification of the perils of being raised in the bible belt!
Terrific! Honest and funny, too. Thank you.
My daughter posted the link to your blog. Glad she did, because you touched on some of the things I’ve noticed over the years as well. I’ll tell you of two.
After my mother died after a painful, prolonged cancer, someone I considered a friend told me it was part of God’s plan to make me a stronger person. My mouth literally dropped open. That anyone could make such a statement stunned me. I asked her, “Are you telling me that God deliberately made my mother suffer and die young because I am so special that he wants to make me strong?” I do not recall what she replied now, but it was a cruel and insensitive thing to say to someone in deep pain and grief. I pitied her for her lack of insight. We had no common language with which to discuss grief.
The second: a neighbor of mine for many years was a deeply religious woman who attended an African-American Christian church. We often spent a morning having coffee and chatting. One day she said to me, “You know, you are a good Christian.” Then, remembering that I am Buddhist, she put her hand to her mouth, embarrassed, and began to apologize. I stopped her apology, and told her I considered what she said a compliment, and thanked her for it. Buddhism is a way of life that is very like the actual teachings of Christ, and I felt the honesty of her comment not as insult, but as honor.
Thank you for your astute and gentle observations. Your buddha-nature is flowering. ;-}
Dayle, your second example made me smile. Thank you for your commitment to developing buddha-nature in yourself 🙂
I love this! Sounds like the things I think and say and write. My daughter, Biff Wilson, shared this on my FB timeline. I’m so glad she did. An old Navy buddy who became my brother-in-law for a few years recently de-friended me on FB because my daughter was too “openly” Gay and I was too accepting in my posts. He used that phrase about hating the sin! I was a pastor, also, and I still minister – but not in a church.
What about ‘it’s not Christian how Treyvon Martin was treated’ or ‘it’s not Christian to put people on death row because that’s killing?’
Yeah, I would call that into question, too. We need to stop using Christian as an adjective.
So the list of things Christians shouldn’t say, and the first one you mention is “That’s not Christian…”
Can I be the only one to point out that you’re essentially saying “That’s not Christian to say “That’s not Christian…””
You can if you want, but I’m not saying that.
Wonderful, thought provoking thread. But I need to share two things… first, most people don’t actually take our Lord’s name in vain…that is, they don’t make a vow or oath to God and then break it. I’m sure there are plenty who make “promises” to God with no intentions of keeping them, but the majority don’t say things such as “I will kill you, so help me God”. I won’t go into it any further, just know and understand what it actuallymeans to take the Lord’s name in vain. Second, everything that happens in your life is part of God’s plan. As humans, we make choices, sinfully (because we think we know best), that make our lives digress from God’s original plan for us. If we were to follow God’s plan unquestionably, it would be far different from the one that we actually live. To question or doubt God’s plan, is to question or doubt the magnificance and glory of God. Who are we to question or doubt God’s wonder. If you question the plan, are you not questioning the planner? Thank you, and God bless.
Hi Katherine, I don’t agree with your second premise. I’m sorry, can’t accept it. What you say as simple fact I don’t consider fact. And I think God can take my questioning. Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts, though.
Pastor Tim, didn’t Jeremiah, David, etc. etc., question God? If not, well then a whole lot of Psalms really shouldn’t have made the Canon!! I have got to get back to studying for the ministry in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, so I can’t read all these posts, but I say, Thank you!!! I am female, and many other denominations do not agree that women should be in the ordained clergy, but I was there when God called me, and if they will look at the Scriptures with fresh eyes, rather than just react with the thoughts they were taught were right, God calls who He calls, and does not like it when humans try to tell Him what to do. As for me and my house, I’m not telling God “no!” And my husband and I are in agreement with Him. Thank you for what you are doing. I found this posted by a girlfriend from my church, and it is a great new blessing for me!!
Indeed they did, Lee. Blessings on entering the ministry! It is truly a strange and wondrous calling.
What’s wrong with questioning the planner? Does God keep secrets? Didn’t Paul Tillich say that doubt was integral to faith?
Yes, Andy. An excellent point! And I’m a Tillich-o-phile as it is…
Just for the record, there are still Christians who do not use profanity, obscenity or sissy-cussing. They believe that if they love and respect God and others, they can control those impulses and in time decrease the temptations. Words enter the brains of others and change them, possibly forever, so if we love one another, how could we give ourselves permission to impose vulgar speech on those around us? Expressing anger increases anger. The fruit of the spirit brings …self-control.
Thanks for commenting, Ellen. I don’t think Paul had cursing in mind when he wrote that, but thanks for the perspective. I do continue to be absolutely stunned at how many people have commented on the cursing section of this blog. I hope people will be just as appalled when people use these other phrases as they would if someone said dammit.
Sorry, it’s me again. In October, I preached a sermon on “Bad Words,” and while I am sure that, to some extent, it sounded like I am a minister-in-training, my bad words consisted of the put-downs, harrassments, and bullying that I had experienced as a child and tried to intervene in while I was teaching special ed. I pray that people will get your message, that “cuss words” are not the worst thing one can say to a person. People can be deeply wounded and turn away running from the church, by some of the things I have ear-witnessed Christians saying. Sorry, got to get back with Luke Timothy Johnson-I really am trying!!
Ellen – That’s the beauty of following Christ. We are all different in our understanding and interpretation of what matters to God.
Fabulous list. I agree with everything you’ve stated Pastor Tim. I will admit that I do believe God guides me through life but, like you, I cannot accept that its in his plan to kill my friends babies or rape innocent children. If this is in Gods plan than count me out…God is gracious and good. Not conniving and untrustworthy. And that is why I love this post and will share it with all. I feel so blessed to have you as a pastor…
Couple of points. On hate the sin topic. Your argument that you cant love the sinner without loving his sin is off-base imho. You say you can’t love someone without loving the essential part of them. So you love serial killers murdering? They would argue they can’t help it and its essential to who they are. I AM NOT equating the two. You can love the person. The person created in God’s image, who Christ loves unconditionally. We can love people unconditionally but that doesn’t mean we love the life of sin they’ve chosen. All have sinned and fallen short…So I’m not excluding myself from that. I have homosexual friends and we discuss these issues. I don’t approve of their lifestyle but I approve of them and their friendship.Christ separated his feelings for us and our sin and we can too(hopefully).
Second I agree with your view on Gods plan. He never planned for us to suffer. But all things work for good for those who love the Lord and seek his face. As sad as it is for us dying is not a negative for the Christian.
“For the unsaved this world is the best they’ll ever have, for the Christian it is the worst we’ll ever have it”. Not very comforting for someone who has lost a love one but true none-the-less. (Rambles a bit sorry!)
Good discussion. God Bless you Brother.
Would you be friends with a murderer who said it’s not something he can control?
Wow, great post…I have a tuff time w/christianity! Saying that you are a christian doesn’t make you a christian…hence what we say and do, action speaks louder than words. I believe to be a good christian or even better just a good person, is to have good morals. If we have good morals then the list would be a mute point. But then we have to take in the human factor…God did not create us all equal and we need to be more understanding and less judgemental…God included. I guess we think that because he gave us this perfect and beautiful planet to live on that he is perfetct…I don’t think that he is….I don’t think we are (if we were, why are we destroying it?) another topic. He has his faults and trust me I have issues with him. I wish more poeple would talk about their issues with God (leave out the Bible) with out feeling like they are going to hell if you say something out of line.
I just go back to the fact that we are not all created equal, but I do wish he was kinder. I fight with myself to be a good moral person…I think too many people abuse the word saying that they are Christians. Now before you send me hate mail…think of our politicians. WE really have lost the meaning! Love thy neighbor is one that comes to mind.
Oh Yeah, one other thing…I say cuss words as well, but only when needed, still a work in progress using less often (mostly because I have no one to talk to!) 🙂
Well this is an interesting conversation going on here. I’ve just reread James 3. A person that can control his tongue is mature. That’s not to say that a person who cusses is not a Cristian. That’s just ridiculous. The point isn’t to cuss or not to cuss. It definitely isn’t to pass judgement on those who do, either. Rather it is for each of us to know what’s appropriate at certain times and in certain company, and to be sensible and looking out not only for our own interests, but the interests of others. With everything that is in us, living at peace with God and man.
As for what to say or not say to suffering people, the Bible does say to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. It also says to comfort one another with the comfort whereby you have been comforted. Some well meaning Christians think they have to offer a theological explanation for everything. Not so. Be loving and sensitive. Sometimes that is just being there, silently. Or holding someone’s hand, or even saying…I don’t understand this either, but I’m here for you.
“You need to surround yourself with some good Christian people…” I see nothing wrong with this. Some people do need to do this. Especially if they want to break away from harmful things that they practiced. There are different seasons for different parts of one’s life. A recovering addict doesn’t want to hang around with the same friends because he will be tempted to do drugs. Leave that company to the Christians who don’t struggle with addiction to minister to. Bad company corrupts morals. That’s just true. We are in the world but not of it doesn’t mean we avoid the world, nor does it mean we avoid Christian company so as to not to look like pharisees. Plus, some people have walked with God for longer than others. Why shouldn’t the new believer immerse herself in the company of like believers? Do what God calls you to do. Leave the rest to him. Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what shall this man do?” Jesus replied, “…what is that to you? You follow me.” John 21:
I don’t believe the post is saying “don’t hang out with Christians” It’s more of an understanding that hanging out with Christians isn’t the answer. The post isn’t about do’s and don’ts it’s about what is helpful to say and what we can believe to be helpful that can instead be very harmful or damaging. I don’t believe he saying hanging out with christians is bad, but its not a fix. It’s like saying “just pray about it” Praying can be helpful but it’s not going to magically make the situation better. We need to be willing to delve into the life of others and give true loving compassion. Not a quick phrase and continue to whistle on our merry way feeling as though we’ve done Gods work.
Reblogged this on ThePseudoMe and commented:
This writer and seem to have the same views on the matter. Except that I could not have phrased it any better, hense the reblog.
Thanks, Pseudome! Many blessings.
This was an very interesting post. As a Christian who recently had my mind blown by The Shack, I’m surprised no one has commented on this part of your post:
“I’m even more suspicious of people who claim that God’s greatest wish is to have us be in a relationship with God. I think this is where much “praise and worship” music get it’s singular focus.
In the abstract, I get what they’re saying. I think God does desire for humanity to live in shalom with it’s creator. But to claim that this will takes precedence over God’s desire to have humanity live in shalom with one another, and with the environment, and with other creation is, I think, short-sighted.”
Really? You don’t think our relationship with our Creator takes precedence over all our other relationships? He designed us to seek Him first. When we are Christ-like, by spending time with Him, our other relationships will benefit. I have no formal education in theology, but I sort of assumed we all agreed this was our primary goal: Relationship with Him.
Thank you for #1!! That phrase drives more hurting, suffering people OUT of churches and AWAY from God than any other I can imagine.
My husband died a few years ago, at the age of 39, leaving behind myself and 4 kids who were still a bit traumatized from dealing with the 5 yrs of illness prior to his death. The idea that “nothing will ever happen to you outside of God’s perfect will” almost drove me away from God. How could this level of suffering be the will of a good God? Have you ever heard a 10 yr old girl wail when you tell her that her daddy has died? It’s torture, pure and simple, and if that was God’s will, that level of pain for my child, then don’t expect me to worship the one you say caused it.
Personally, I think that phrase is most often used by people who like to pretend that everything in life will always make sense and that we have one iota of control. It is said not so much to comfort the hearer of that phrase as the speaker. They like to believe that, though their good and gracious God clearly willed this type of tragedy for someone else, God would never will it for them. It makes them feel safe.
But consider this: if someone came into your house and killed your husband or wife, because it was their will to do so, how anxious would you be to love, serve, honor, and worship that person? How do you expect those of us who have endured tragedy to feel any differently? If it’s God’s will for us to endure such a thing, well then, he’s not such a good God, is he? And if it was his will for us to endure this, then I don’t want anything to do with that kind of God.
Fortunately, I stopped drinking the koolaid. I understand God differently. I understand that he comforts us in all our sorrows, not that he causes us all our sorrows. I understand that we live in a fallen world and bad things really do happen to good people. I also understand that when we weep, God weeps. His heart breaks for us. He is not sitting in his lofty heights, pleased that his will has been done and produced pain; he is with us, beside us, in us, grieving the affects of a world gone wrong and the pain that it brings to his children.
FYI: I stopped going to church in part because people would not stop saying this phrase to me and my children. I didn’t want my kids exposed to such lies about God. Sad when you have to stop going to church so your kids will stop being lied to. If you like to use this phrase to comfort those that have endured tragedy understand that the one time you say that phrase to them may be the last time they can endure it and you may never see them darken the doors of your church again. Now, is THAT the will of God too?
I no longer consider myself religious, and the jury is still out on my belief in Christianity or God as a whole. A lot of different things have factored into this change in my life and beliefs. Just wanted to say that I appreciate the article and I thought everything was stated perfectly. I liked all of the points but the one that really hit me was about God’s plan. I lost my father unexpectedly almost 7 years ago, he was 46. Every time somebody would come up to me and try to explain that it was God’s plan I would fill up with anger. The other thing they would say was that he was in a better place, the best place is here with me and the rest of his family. Too many times I would feel like people wanted to console me with something “deep” or “religious” when all I needed from them was a sympathetic ear and for them to “stand in solidarity with (me) and scream, “Dammit!””. When I encounter people going through the pain of a lost loved one I draw from my own experience, shrug my shoulders, tell them “that sucks, I’m sorry”, and give them a hug. There is nothing else you can do, especially when you have no idea what is going on in that person’s head and heart. I’m sure many people thought they could say God’s plan or in a better place, I was attending church weekly, my father was a leader of our local church, I looked and acted the part, it just goes to show you that you can’t assume you can spout something to somebody and have it mean what you want it to mean. I feel like I should say that I hold no grudges against anybody that said those things to me, I know they were just trying to help but the feeling of anger couldn’t be helped.
While I know that losing my father and the emotions and thoughts that came with that contributed greatly to the reasons I am no longer religious, I also can say that those were not the only deciding factors and all of the other items on this list factored in as well. Beyond all that, it just didn’t feel like who I was anymore and I knew that I had to be honest with myself.
guilty fellow Xtian here. my lips had uttered those … well except no.5, i guess. if not verbatim then in ways and speeches which when translated— be these 5 phrases (apparently, in English language!) …. just had to run through no.1 again just so i could comprehend …coz honestly, it’s cliche to me, and i’d been telling the words all the time …. hope you could elaborate more on that … your nice words will surely help. thanks. ❤
I’m actually planning to follow up on a couple of these in subsequent posts because it appears it’s touched a nerve with folks. Thanks for your comments and your words. Let’s all be careful with our words.
i believe so sir … can’t wait for your follow up posts. ❤
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“Every time somebody would come up to me and try to explain that it was God’s plan I would fill up with anger.”
I lost my dad, too, a few years back. He died slowly as cancer took his life. At the time, I was an atheist and I would’ve reacted the same way as you to such comments, but given that my dad’s final witness during his last days as well as God’s obvious and sovereign hand at work, I know that at least one little part of God’s plan in taking my father was to bring me to His saving grace.
“The other thing they would say was that he was in a better place, the best place is here with me and the rest of his family.”
Isn’t that a tad selfish/self-centered? You’re not thinking about your dad or God, but yourself. I miss my dad and I would’ve liked to have had him here with his family, but he’s in the presence of the One who created him and gave him new life. He’s free of the pain and suffering of this world (even when he was healthy) and knows nothing but joy, peace and love right now. Being here with his family is definitely NOT better than that.
And yet, why do people fight to stay alive? Even if there is a negative moral duty to not commit suicide, it does not mean there is a positive moral duty to prolong one’s life.
Would not the appropriate reaction to a heart attack be to crawl into a corner to die quietly, instead of dialing 9-1-1? Or if one is diagnosed with cancer, why spend tens of thousands of dollars on medical treatment, instead of spending it on entertainment until it is time to meet God and go to Heaven? After all, did not Jesus say whoever loses his life for His sake will find it? Did not the Quran teach that martyrs go to Heaven?
Is there even one quote of Scripture, reference to Scripture, or even allusion to Scripture in the article? Maybe I missed it…the entrance of God’s word gives light. Gospel blessings…
Hey Keith, the article wasn’t meant to be a proof-texting treatise. Suffice to say there are plenty of Biblical citations for and against many of the comments made in the body of the text and in the comments. It’s amazing how Luther’s comment, “All Scripture has a wax nose” is proved true in such arguments. We can twist it any way we want…and so often do.
A good read. Quite thought provoking. Thanks for sharing. I am not a christian but these thoughts come to all minds.
Great insight. I might not curse with you, but I will follow your blog. Of course, if I do curse in the near future, I will now be able to blame it on you. so there’s that.
There is that…thanks for following!
When I had a miscarriage, one of the books I read (through tears) about grieving for this “invisible” loss had a list of 10 “helpful” things people were likely to say. I remember these:
It’s part of God’s plan.
It probably would have been deformed anyway.
Don;t worry, you’ll have more children.
Well at least you already have one child.
Sure enough, at church that Sunday, one woman managed to blurt out FOUR such comments in a row, before I could even respond.
I was glad I had been prepared, or it would have surely floored me. As it was, I looked at her in love, and knew she was struggling – and trying. I accepted her love, if not her words.
The woman at my office who left an Easter basket from Fannie May’s on my desk, made me feel so supported, that 15 years later, I still have that cardboard bunny in my Easter box.
I received much good love from many people at my church, that day and countless other days. I especially found healing in their hugs and wordless sighs.
In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote (and quite masterfully, I think): “Often we combat our evil thoughts most effectively if we absolutely refuse to allow them to be expressed in words…. it must be a decisive rule of every Christian fellowship that each individual is prohibited from saying much that occurs to him[/her].”
Ha, love it, Nate. Thanks!
Instead of cursing, I choose to rest in the knowledge that God is in control of all things. I choose instead to follow biblically-based teachings like the following instead of the tripe of someone trying to justify his potty mouth.
Thanks for commenting, Jinx. Just to be clear: don’t think there’s anything to justify about cursing. Sorry you feel that way, and sorry you’re responding so negatively.
I don’t endorse the link Jinx has put up.
Thanks for reading.
“I choose instead to follow biblically-based teachings like the following instead of the tripe … ”
Isn’t that special? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX8jo8wIIaU&feature=related
Love this episode! I swear Dana Carvey was out church secretary when I was little…
i’m pagan, i’ll say that right now. My dear friend that posted this is christian. After having read this pastors post i have to say i agree with him immensely and i have to say that he wrote this very well. i’m a pagan minister and a lot of the folks i talk to and help out give many of these reason as to why they dislike Christianity. To have a christian pastor actually take the time to address these very issues and to openly write about them give me hope that someday our two faiths will be able to be friends with each other and no more of us being “burned at the stake” as this guy so eloquently stated.
Many blessings, Bear. Thank you for your words!
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This was too good not to re-post! I completely agree with the sentiments of this Pastor!
This definitely got me thinking about your points…in fact I have been guilty of saying a few…yikes!lol. I am inspired to write on a similar topic now…thanks. But just one question…God hates sin but His love for us does not change…so technically can point 4 be validated? looking forward to your response…..
Hey fay, I really want to call that phrase into question because I think it’s used poorly. As I point out, its often used for people to try to make themselves feel better (even righteous?) while holding judgment over someone else. I also think that in a contemporary setting, it’s almost exclusively used to apply to people with sexual orientations other than heterosexual, and I don’t think that you can love people outside of their orientation.
I’m really not sure why everyone wants to hang on to this phrase. It’s so empty.
Thanks for commenting and reading!
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I do not agree with this. There are some things the bible does not compromise on.
Thanks for commenting, askia. It’s OK to disagree.
I had a fantastic pastor named Dennis Ellingson, in Volga, South Dakota, who preached everything you are saying here. Though I last saw him nearly twenty years ago, he most undoubtedly shaped my idea of what faith is, and how Christianity can be a light in the world, vs. a lot of judgmental nay saying. I also hold him as one of the wisest, kindest people I’ve ever met, of any walk of life.
The best was the day he started our confirmation class by running off, loudly, while writing them on the chalk board, every four-letter word he could think of. He stopped, after he finished, with all of us somewhere between giggles and mouths agape, turned around, and said, “You see? God didn’t strike me down.” He went on to tell us that there’s a time and place for words like that, and the only “curse word” is to pretend you know what god wants by using his name, to justify actions that are cruel, to justify war, to justify judging any other human being for what they do.
I chose to not consider myself a “Christian” many years ago in favour of embracing a more animistic philosophy (and that’s another story), but Pastor Ellingson, for that teaching, and many others, has always been a warm inspiration to me in my daily life.
I just have to say that I went way out of my norm by reading this, and I am so happy that I did. I was raised in a strict southern Baptist world, and as soon as I was mature enough to decide for myself what I believed, I did not return to the church. I have to say that the author of this blog is a christian that I would feel comfortable breaking bread with.
I do not attend church, I support gay relationships, I have told a lie or two in my life, but I feel like God is ok with that, and with who I am. I help others when they need, I am a good mother and wife, and I do my very best to avoid hurting other beings in any way. But, some Christians believe that because I choose to live my life outside of the church and Bible (which I see as more of collection of inspiring stories than “how to guide” for getting into heaven), or organized religion for that matter, that there is no hope for me.
I feel like this pastor is a person of acceptance, verses tolerance, and that is comforting to someone who has the belief system that I do.
Thanks, Jennifer, for your comments. And I would offer that churches, and organized religion, need people like you in them, too 🙂
Cannot even tell you how much I adore this!
THANK YOU so, so much…so challenging when these phrases come from family…who in my heart of hearts I believe are well-intentioned and don’t MEAN to be nasty…but you know how it sounds….
The one I REALLY despise? “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
Our home was devastated by Hurricane Irene last August (we will move back in next month!) and at this very moment, I’m sitting alongside my husband who’s receiving top-notch treatment for Stage 4 cancer. God didn’t “give” us those challenges by a long shot! I don’t believe for a red hot minute that He’s “testing” us. But there is not one sought in my mind that God is inhabiting those ministering to us, those caring for our twins while we’re in the hospital these weeks, those praying for us and keeping us in good humor.
Damn straight. (I’m a Christian and I curse, too.)
Blessings to you…this is what I needed today. 🙂
Thanks for sharing your story, Chery!
Wow. Lots o’ comments. My personal philosophy: never trust a pastor who doesn’t occasionally curse. They’re either phony or too perfect for the likes of me…
Ha! Nice. Thanks, Matthew…
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I agree with the writer on #1… It isn’t God who causes bad things to happen. John 10:10 says…The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
God is the good guy the devil is the bad guy! Why do tragedies happen? 1. The devil is out to kill God’s creation 2. We live in a fallen world where there are earthquakes, tornadoes, etc and sometimes we fail to listen to and/or obey God’s voice which might be warning us not to go somewhere or stay away from something. 3. We fail to use our faith to speak to our Infirmities, sickness or we simply don’t believe that God still heals today and that miracles still exist.
The easy/lazy thing for so many people to do is to just blame it on God and say it is all in his perfect will “Whatever will be will be…” No friends! That is not the way it should be! As children of God we have Prayer and prayer changes things! Love you all!
Reblogged this on This Imperfect Christian.
On a wholly different note, I want to thank you for being candid with your opinions and your views. I don’t know a lot of ministers (in any faith) who feel as comfortable as you must to share such a human side of themselves. I grew up with priests who felt they had to protect the facade of being “closer” to God than I, and it was devastating to my faith journey, as I felt more judged than supported. Water under the bridge. 🙂
I will say that I have questioned many of the same points as you’ve outlined, and have wondered, aloud and to no great use, what God would think of how we’re treating each other. While I have concluded that He’s far more concerned with loving each other than He is with who’s being “Christian enough”, I also know that the only judgment I can make is about how any current cultural influences affect me – and only me. Well, and my kids, but that’s more about dialog and context than anything.
We will all answer to God, and I’m far more taken up with how I’ll answer for squandering what He gave me to care for than I am about what other people are or are not doing.
Final thought, my current pastor admitted one time that he went to a non-Christian therapist so he could, indeed, swear if he felt the urge. That admission was both amusing and comforting. Thanks for the great post!
Thanks for sharing your story, Lisa! I hope that more and more pastors can feel free to be candid. I think Jesus was pretty candid with those around him, and we don’t do our parishioners any good when we’re not upfront.
Wow! I would list everything in this article I disagree with, but I don’t have that much time and based on the responses in the comments it sounds like the author has his mind made up and is too sure of himself to listen to anyone who might disagree with his precious points. This is but another example of why this Christian doesn’t go to church. I shudder to think of the people that this man “shepherds” – of course there’s probably not a lot of shepherding going on since he eschews a request for reasonable responsbility on the basis that he “might need to go to the coffee house.” (You know the sort of thing that other people with jobs still manage to find time to do.) I am disgusted that a “pastor” would take such well-meaning phrases by well-meaning people and twist them into something ugly. Because, obviously, that’s all people are really doing – cloaking their horrible, evil intentions in Christian nicieties – they can’t possibly be genuine, caring people. At least the author doesn’t have to be worried about God spitting him out of His mouth for being lukewarm. He’s far too cold-hearted to ever be mistaken for being lukewarm.
Wow soapie, sorry to offend. I’m happy to field other opinions. I think it’s sad you have to think I’m cold hearted, and I fully admit people say these things because they’re trying to be nice. I just don’t think they’re helpful, and that’s why I wrote it. But, I fully reserve the right to be wrong. That’s why this Christian does go to church.
Thanks for reading.
How about instead of telling us what you think we’re doing that’s so unhelpful tell us what you’d rather we say instead? If your point was to be “helpful” by telling us what not to say, why not take the extra step and tell us what you think we should be saying?
(And, for the record I do assume that I know God’s will for my life because I don’t think He wants me to sit around twiddling my thumbs just marking days until I die. I think He desires that we ask Him to show us His will because He wants us to know. Otherwise, what’s the point?)
Uhm, I did write what I think you should say.
I’ll also say that your tone is pretty tense. Please tone it down if you comment again. Thanks.
I re-read the article and have to confess that I simply don’t see where you stated what you prefer to hear instead. The only thing I saw suggested was at the end of the piece when you said we are to stand with our friend and say “Damn it!”
I won’t apologize for my tone but I won’t respond again since you are taking the “author gets to say, do and feel however they want” road but if it provokes a response in my heart that you don’t like you have the right to request I “tone it down.” It’s bad enough when the world attacks Christians, I refused to sit quietly while you did.
It’s in my next blog.
And while I don’t think I’m attacking Christians, I’m sorry you feel as I am. I guess I’m attacking myself, then.
I can request you tone it down, I don’t think that’s unreasonable. It is unreasonable, though, for you to say that my suggesting people think carefully about their words/phrases is an attack.
In general, I think people often feel guilty when they’re shown some things that others think are offensive, things that they might themselves say/do. I really want to stress: I don’t want anyone to feel guilty. I’ve said these phrases in my life.
But as a pastor, and a Christian, I’m calling them into question. If that doesn’t sit well with you, feel free not to read. But don’t feel free to accuse and be harsh. We can disagree; that’s OK. It’s not OK to be hostile.
Shoulda been in this blog, Tim.
Thanks, AMR. That wasn’t the point of this post. I offered some things I think Christians should say more often in the next post. I’m OK with the way this one is.
Plus, I think we can all come up with more helpful phrases than the above without me having to give them.
We must think.
You made some very good points and the fact that it has upset some folks, just reaffirms the point. It is interesting how the calm xtians can turn into a pack of wolves so very quickly. I enjoy a good debate however, true debates are few and far between because the xtian usually (not always) resorts to name-calling and verbal attacks instead of discussing (or debating) the facts.
I applaud you for questioning everything. If more people did just that, the world would be a better (and more mature) place.
Let the games begin…….. 🙂
I’ve noticed that our culture seems to reward name-calling these days as a replacement for sound argument. I’ve been seeing it in almost every arena, particularly politics. No one seems immune on any side. So unfortunate that xtians are being persuaded to act this way too. And they get noticed for it, because our faith tells us to do the opposite. Such a shame. All I can say is, enjoy the show.
Ha. Thanks, Nicole.
I agree that we Christians are so many times “swallowing camels while straining out gnats.” We need to concentrate on what Christ actually said matters– loving God and loving people! If what we’re doing isn’t truly helpful to that end, then it’s useless and might be hurtful, and could possibly be destructive in ways we don’t even realize. He said that if we aren’t attached to the vine (Him), we wither. And that the world would be inspired by our love for each other. Not by our clean language. While I would have to clarify w/ you some of the minor points you made, Tim, before I could fully agree, I completely concur w/ the main point. We need to get back to what truly matters! And quit handing out platitudes and picking on each other!
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Had to laugh when i saw this. Have actually encountered some people saying some of these very things, can definitely relate. Great post!
Thanks, Claire! Many blessings.
helpful post. 🙂
I agree, Christians shouldn’t say these 5 phrases because they aren’t biblical concepts. Nowhere in the Bible do we get , ‘Jesus loves the sinner but hates the sin’. Additionally, we should not curse because it is sin, as indicated in Ephesians 5.
We need to love God and love people, but it isn’t loving to God to ignore his truth and his word.
Unfortunately I’m sure you get lots of ‘hit and runs’ from more conservative Christians, but I assure you, this isn’t one.
If you’d like to discuss this further, check out my site or toss an email.
don’t consider this a “hit and run”. I’ll repeat that I don’t think the writer from Ephesians was talking about swear words, and I assure you I’m not trying to ignore truth or Scripture.
Thank you for posting!
I think it’s generous to leave you with that conclusion, but I will. I think the main point necessary here is that as a Christian, I am called to love other human beings, regardless. There aren’t ways which I should ‘hate’ them. Their sin offends God and brings His judgement, but that is God’s role and not mine.
That being said, for a given sin – foolishness, sexual sin (straight sexual sin, or homosexuality), lying, lusting (over people or things) brings the just wrath of God against them, and it is loving to gently tell people of this and beg them to repent of it. And that is something that ought to be welcome in the church.
A good thought to entertain, and one that I do: can God give mercy without repentance? And if so, does God?
And if so, perhaps the formula(s) that we try to concoct around God and God’s actions aren’t as cut and dry. And in fact we might be missing the point of living a life with God if we focus so much on such “right/wrong” binaries.
In the spirit of generosity, I’ll end with that as well.
Mercy from Hell without repentance? No. Other mercies like breath, sunshine, food, other graces? Yes. Of course, I would never have the audacity to make these claims based on my own wisdom if God’s Word didn’t say these things… By nature God is above us, yet has graciously revealed His will.
Things are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ if God has deemed them so. Swearing isn’t abundantly clear, and therefore I’m willing to leave it aside, however the other ones I’ve mentioned are abundantly clear.
Just so I can understand you better… are you a Universalist?
No, not a Universalist. I read your post on Universalism. It was poor scholarship and not well informed.
LP, I realize you think you have “it” all figured out. I don’t agree with you. It’s clear we’re coming from different places and won’t agree. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, but we’re not going to agree on this.
What you consider to be “the end of the book” is actually a book in and of itself. Revelation is a book that stands alone as a metaphorical interpretation of 1st into 2nd Rome, it is not an “end of all times” book. I point you toward Barbara Rossings “The Rapture Exposed” for an explanation of what I’m talking about.
You basically proof-text Universalism. A question: did you talk to Universalist to see what they think/believe?
See, this is the problem. So many people think they have others figured out. In that post you mention Paul’s conversion as moving from “legalism” to…?
What? What you are professing is legalism to the highest degree. Can you not be reformed, too?
A call of the question is what I’m intending with this post. Let’s think about what we say. If we can’t think about what we say, if we think we have it all figured out with platitudes and ridiculous cliches, then we miss the whole point of this journey called “life.”
We’re not going to agree on this. I do thank you for reading and posting.
I know people who are Universalists. My writing is not scholarly, it is more exegetical in nature. I’m admitedly not the best writer, but trying to improve.
I can assure you I don’t have everything figured out, and I don’t mean to come across proud. I have much more to learn. But certainty gleaned from the clarity of Scripture is not pride. I realize we don’t agree, and I don’t expect reading a blog will change this. But our disagreements do not stem from the wisdom of our respective arguments – they stem from an acceptance/rejection of Scripture. When this is the case, there is nothing more I can (or should) do.
I’m no master of eschatology, and so if the Revelation text is misinterpreted in your view, John 3:36 is sufficient.
Don’t want to fill up your comment section about a topic that isn’t directly related – if you’d like to discuss further, our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul, I appreciate your candor. Thank you.
I am not a Christian myself, but I think what the pastor is saying here is wonderfully tolerant and well written. I think it’s advice that can be used for just about anyone, regardless of their religion. Bravo
I would also add, “God never gives you more than you can handle.” This is not only just plain Biblically untrue (with the exception of temptation), but not at all comforting!
As a mother who has sat by her daughter’s hospital bed many times being SUSTAINED by a God who walks with me through WAY more than I can handle, I can tell you that one of the best things anyone ever said to me was the F word. I called my brother (who had just graduated from seminary at the time) to tell him that I was taking my daughter to the ER (again). His reply? “F*CK!” You are exactly right. It was the absolutely appropriate response.
Thanks for a great post!
That’s a great point Becky. I’ve probably said that myself. And yet, God wants us to turn to him when we can’t handle “it”. Every day we are to put “it” in his hands.
I don’t agree with you 100%, but I certainly agree with the basis of your message, that God is love, and by loving God, you must, by definition, love all people. I also take issue with these phrases that are over-used time and again by Christians very thoughtlessly, who, while they think they’re doing good by saying them, are really turning people away from God. That’s the way I read it, anyway, forgive me if I misrepresent you. 🙂 I have apologized to non-christians for the behavior of Christians before, and I will continue to live my life loving others to the best of my ability since I’m just trying to do the Jesus thing, rather than “be a good Christian”. Thanks for your message, even if I agree to disagree with you on a few points that I’d rather not get into.
On a side-note about the swearing: I understand that some people find the need to do so occasionally, and I think whether or not it’s sin is personal and depends on whether God has convicted you on that particular issue or not. But what gets under my skin is when someone swears around my children. If you swear yourself, fine. I don’t really care. But if you swear in front of my children to where I have to explain those words (that I myself don’t use) to them and pray they don’t pick up on them and start using them, that’s not ok with me, especially if you consider yourself a Christian. I think it’s easy for people who are in the habit of swearing to consider swear words as normal vocabulary words, not realizing that there are still people who take offense to them and/or don’t want to open that can of worms just yet for young ears. It may be a case of 1 Cor. 8:9-13, where exercising a freedom such as swearing may become a stumbling block for the weak (or young). I wish more people who feel free to swear would consider not doing so around kids. I want my kids to stay innocent as long as possible; they grow up so fast anyway. Just a perspective from a Mommy here. 🙂
Thanks for your comments, Shelley. I do want to make clear: I don’t swear a lot, and I don’t think people should swear a lot. And I think we always, no matter what we’re saying (curses or not) be aware of who is around…hence the reason for this post in the first place. So, we’re in agreement.
Thanks for reading!
Pastor Tim: I have just spend a good chunk of my morning reading many of the posts prompted by your blog. The conversation you have inspired is quite amazing. Although there are clearly divergent ideas and theologies behind many of the posts, the conversation seems civil and may be productive. I was really interested in the exchanges about God’s will and his active role in what happens in our lives. Like several of your posters, I believe that when God gave us free will, he left the door open for many things to happen in this world, some of them great and some of them unthinkably horrible. It is up to us to seek his guidance (his will) for our response to such events. Even the discussion about cursing fits with that plan for our lives. Each time I find myself crossing that line, I also find myself wondering what my creator would think of that. Of course, we often speak first and think second, so we just tend to learn and hopefully try to adapt our actions in the future.
Hi Pete, thanks for reading and posting. Luther’s work “Bondage of the Will” actually had quite an impact on me and my thoughts on “free will.” While I won’t go into all of that now, I do think that there are plenty of actions, both beautiful and horrible, that happen in the world. And I do hold that we should seek God’s will in both beauty and horror. What I question is this idea that God’s will is ultimately knowable, and I really want to question people who suggest that they are certain of God’s will. Fear and trembling are the two (Kierkegaardian) responses I have toward naming anything about God or God’s will.
As far as cursing goes, I think that sometimes cursing is all really can do. I think many people who replied to this post are thinking of specific words that people use in their language to express dissatisfaction. I’m not talking about that (although I do use those words at times because, well, it happens). My heart isn’t troubled over such things; focusing on that is not the point of this life.
My actual point, at the beginning of the post, was that there are sometimes when all you can say is “Oh God…” because that is literally all that can be done. I don’t think that’s speaking first and thinking second; I think that’s honest.
We must be careful when we begin to suggest that God is rewarding and punishing; that God is “causing weal and making woe” (to quote scripture). Philosophically and logically we have to make all sorts of concessions and God either looks impotent or cruel. I want to point people toward a third way, a way of the cross, that shows God standing in weakness with those who have bound wills…
With the God referred to by some of the commenters, who needs the devil?
I would add another phrase that drives me crazy: “I, as Christian etc.”. First of all who says that implies that he/she is while I am not a Christian; besides what if I was Jew or Muslim? Am I less of a human because of this? Secondly they made an assertion on what is right or wrong from a Christian point of view. Problem with that is that usually it is HIS/HER point of view, not God’s or Christ’s; did they personally discuss the issue with Him? Lastly, it’s a very judgemental; something that does not sound really Christian.
This post is going viral on Facebook, methinks. So is the other post, 5 Phrases I Think Christians Should Say. 🙂
While I agree with virtually all of your ideas and positions, I offer two caveats. First, it took me a while to realize that when you were opposing those who say God’s greatest desire is for us to be in relationship with him that you also meant “to the exclusion of other relationships.” Just a note on writing, friend. Otherwise, I agree. I think the world is a vast web of relationships that, if taken as a whole, helps one to “see” God. Secondly, however, I would urge caution in how you express these ideas. I say this because of the “meat sacrificed to idols.” I understand that everything is permissible, but that not everything is beneficial. As the “stronger brother” (a term that I don’t really care for), isn’t it our responsibility not to curse if it causes division? At least amongst those whom it would offend? I realize this sounds like a situational morality and a proposition of hypocrisy, but isn’t it also being all things to all men and simple social awareness and consciousness? Is it not also our place to help those who say these things with a good heart to grow in their empathic ability and to understand just how hurtful and damaging the subtext of their comments are? In my opinion, most Christians need more than just “rules” about things not to do, such as “don’t say these 5 things or things like them,” but rather, they need to be taught to be more considerate and to really listen to and learn about the people around them. I hope you understand where I’m coming from here.
Hi Peter, I do understand what you’re saying and thanks for sharing your thoughts. This post wasn’t meant to offer alternative ways of saying these things; it was meant to bring light to the fact that saying them at all isn’t helpful.
As for cursing and causing division, I actually think these phrases cause much more division than cursing.
Thanks for commenting!
All of these are reasons why I don’t go to church to commune with ‘good Christians’.
Hey Manda, don’t give up on folks. There are places that welcome good questions! Thanks for commenting and sharing your story.
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Excellent! I didn’t read all the comments so maybe someone else mentioned it – but I would add one more phrase, “the Bible clearly says…”
Very little in life is clear – especially multi-layered scripture. I happen to enjoy the complexity, mystery, and wonder found within.
Agreed, Eric! Thanks for commenting.
One of the most insightful articles I have read.
this post, or blog, has resonated with me in a way i’ve not felt in a long time. i feel the urge to go to church for the first time in forever. if only you were in LA and not chicago! i will be following your blog with pleasure from now on. thank you.
Hey Holly, Thanks so much! There are places of faith asking good questions! Don’t give up the search. Blessings in LA. I have many friends who live there (although, it seems most of them are ending up in Long Beach for some reason).
if you happen to have any recommendations for anywhere to start, i’d love to know. so far i haven’t been happy with the places i’ve tried (although there haven’t been that many to be honest)
I’m not a Christian; I’m a Witch who enjoyed this more than I can say. I’m surrounded by great people, an eclectic mix that broadens my perspective rather than narrows it. What you’ve said here applies not only to Christians but to anyone referring to their faith. Thus, I have to say my first thoughts after reading it:
Hell yes! *applause*
I hope my small curse is taken in the appreciative, and grateful spirit in which it was first thought. 🙂
Yes, of course Marie. Thank you for reading, and thanks for commenting!
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this was just a superb read. Very very interesting thoughts here. And honesty. I’m one of the weirdest xtians one would meet.
My hair is blue. I make surrealist art and laugh a lot (yes. Alot of so-called christians don’t know how to laugh and be as joyful as they should). Heck. I can be a big cynic but i know how to smile and not tell everyone theyre going to hell.
The bible says we have ALL fallen short of the glory of God.
Judge not lest ye be judged….why don’t people get that? They push people away from God when they judge.
“hey! You can’t have piercings! That’s unholy!”
really? Why are you wearing earrings? Isnt that huge hat you wear “ornamentation”? “vanity”, too?
Psh. These are just people who feed on self-righteousness. Which is very unChrist-like. Pharisees, basically.
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I mean, I have to whole-heartedly agree with all of this.
Do you have any idea how like rain in a drought you are??? When you feel as though you’re the only person in the world who thinks like this….. Lovin ya from the bottom of the world 🙂
Thanks, Louise. Many blessings for you, too!
I’d like to leave a more profound comment than, “OMG,” but those 3 letters pretty much cover it for me. In a very good way.
Blessings, Linda. Thanks for reading and commenting!
For what it’s worth, this blog entry has helped this skeptic take one step closer to accepting faith and people of faith. There has always been a barrier once I find out someone is Christian (or Catholic, more precisely) and they, likewise, find out that I am not. The tension shifts and it gets uncomfortable. The part that you mentioned about pain, about how “We cannot use God to fill in the gaps between events and the people they effect. … But we should not think that this means that God makes the world’s pain, or the specific pain in a person’s life. It’s an important distinction.” ❤
Thanks, Meg! I hope and pray that dig deeply there!
Love this. At my house, curse words aren’t the F Word, or such. I don’t want my kids saying those words. But if I hear them say “shut up”, “retard” or “faggot” I am going to be PISSED. My kids know they had better not use judgement words.
This is pitiful. God DOES have a plan for all of us. It may include death, pain, and suffering. But its just a part of life! I’m really disappointed at the outcome of this article.
Thanks for reading and commenting, and sorry you’re disappointed. You and I agree on one thing: life does include a myriad of things like pain, suffering, and of course, death. But I’m not willing to say that God gave, or even that God “allows” you to have cancer, or your sister to die, or…fill in the tragic blank.
It’s clear we don’t agree on that. Thanks for reading!
Well God didn’t allow pain and suffering to be a part of life. He doesn’t even want it in our life; He is filled with His own pain and grief when we have to suffer. There’s a really cool illustration I heard about why suffering happens to all of us. Imagine on the floor there were about a hundred paper clips scattered. They are all touching. Each of the paper clips represents our life. We have our friends that we connect to (represented by the touching paper clips). Well God can see all those paper clips and He can see the future and what will happen next. Say He sees a horrible car accident (planned by Satan, of course) where a whole family dies. So He moves one of those paper clips (in which a family of paper clips are touching) to a different position. It may end up not touching the paper clips it was touching previously. Then when the car accident comes in real life, only one person is killed. You may not think this is fair, but really all we can say is that its all Satan’s fault.
If your wife got pregnant, then lost the baby, you wouldn’t understand why the sinless, perfect child had to die for no reason. The baby didn’t deserve to die, right? But God can see into the future. He could see that maybe one day, this perfect child would grow up to be a serial killer. We can’t see into the future and we can’t understand why bad things happen to us. My whole post may sound a little cliched but this is how I see it. I know you don’t like it when I say “Its all part of God’s plan” so I’ll change it. Sin is all a part of Satan’s plan, and God is doing what He can to prevent sin because He loves us.
I can agree with you on some thoughts. But overall it seems like the church you were in didn’t teach people to have a personal knowledge of God (or people dont learn it themselves). No middle person can be between God and you. It’s wrong to think you can come to God through a church, pastor or a friend. That’s one of the reasons why many people lose faith.
Thanks for the thoughts, Yar. I have issues with organized religion, but I’ve never been able to grow spiritually without it. Without other people around God just ends up looking like me.
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I completely agree with everything you just said. There are Christians out there who give the rest of us such a bad name; and the ironic thing is that while they’re saying these things, they really aren’t loving their neighbours.
This is why I practice in my home – that and the whole gay thing, but let’s not go into that.
Thank you – just saw this post today. I read some of the comments but ran out of time. I wish people would think about the implications of what they say – “God healed me because I prayed” Oh – so I prayed and my FIL still dies, does that mean God loves us less? No, of course it doesn’t. But that statement does imply that the “healed’s” faith is somehow superior to mine. Also, to tell me that it’s “God’s Will” that I be infertile is incredibly hurtful. Really, it’s his will that I, who would love and cherish a child not be able to have one, but someone who doesn’t want one or who is ultimately going to abuse that child can have one? Exactly how is that a loving God? There’s a big difference in knowledge of what will happen and causing it to happen. If everything that happens on this planet is his will, then why is there hell? If every single thing that happens on this planet is God’s will, then why would a murderer go to hell? I mean after all, he was just following God’s plan, because every single thing that happens is God’s plan. The fact that we are able to sin means that we are able to choose not to do God’s will, and to not follow his plan. That alone means that there are things that happen that were not His will, not His choice, not His original plan. Look at Adam and Eve, it wasn’t God’s plan for them to be driven from the garden. It was His plan for them to commune together. They made a choice that violated His will and His plan. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I agreed with all of them!
I’m not sure I understand where you are coming from on the cursing topic. Aren’t we supposed to talk and act differently than the world? I understand that you are saying when tragedy strikes, but even in bad times our words should still honor God. Could you clarify please?
Hi Jessica, I think we are to act and talk differently than the world, but for so long that conversation has been around “cursing” of some sort, and I’m suggesting that these examples are exactly how I think Christians should talk differently. These platitudes are harmful…and Christians should see and know that.
This blogpost wasn’t about cursing, really. It was about being careful with our words. And if we aren’t going to be careful, I think it’s better if we curse.
Thanks for reading, Jessica. And thanks for asking for clarification. I hope I provided it.
This is an amazing article. Thank you so much for putting into words things that I’ve felt and believed but could not so eloquently tell. I have a daughter who has been disabled by brain cancer and have been told many hurtful things by other Christians. I’ll be sharing this article. Thanks again.
Thank you for commenting, Sylvia. Many blessings to you and your family.
Good points but I would argue that cursing is not necessary in everyday language. I cannot understand why well educated people must take the Lord’s name in vain, use obscenities, the F-word is becoming a common phrase…REALLY? We can’t find better words than a cuss word to speak with each other? One reason I have always loved Bill Cosby is his use of language in his storytelling without the obscene vocabulary many think they need to use.
Thanks Ed. I agree, no need to constantly curse. But I’d prefer you use the f word instead of yelling me one of these phrases…
Thanks for commenting.
Yes, these are called Christian jargon. I have to agree on the “It’s all in God’s plan” one – the thing is, God’s vision is way above and beyond ours and how are we ever supposed to really know if something in God’s plan? And it is just about the worst thing a Christian can say to someone who is ill. I say this because a good friend of mine is in his early twenties and was diagnosed with leukemia recently. Even though his strong faith is shining through during this dark period, I think it would be the most inappropriate thing to do for any totally healthy human being to even discuss the issue of God’s plan with him.
I’m sorry to say that this blog is pretty new age thinking and not biblical in many respects. I wonder how much bible study you have done? We shouldn’t mess with anything that can let in demonic activity and the term “it all being about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” well yes it is!! God sent Him for a reason. You can love a person but hate the sin. It is perfectly possible as we all have something. No-one is better than another. It sounds that you are just airing stuff that you personally don’t like. We are to look to what God likes as he is the creator of the whole universe and knitted you in your mothers womb!!!!! I ask that you hear my concern with the love it is being given and really pray and please do get a 1-1 relationship with God as it is the most important thing to Him, otherwise ,how will he let us know what our personal mission is??
It’s clear we come from different places on this. These thoughts don’t come from “new age” thinking, but from years of study. Bible study. Christian study. There is a whole world of Biblical scholarship that is good and faithful and supports this work. I do appreciate your reading, but I don’t think we’re going to agree here.
I think your last question deserves a little longer response.
I don’t know that God has given you, or me, any personal mission other than love God and to love ones neighbor as you love yourself. The idea of a 1-1 relationship with Jesus, or with God in fact, is not prescribed in Scripture. That, in fact, is relatively new to the world of Christianity.
I had a parishioner come to me once worries about many of these same things. Her “Christian” teachers had taught her much about 1-1 relationships with Jesus, but hadn’t done much work with how 1-1 relationships with others work in the world. She was worried about her sons: how will they live in a world if they “ended up” gay? How can we know God’s will? I heard those concerns, but I don’t think those are the right questions.
A better question, I think, is how do we learn to love when we’re not sure how to react to the other in front of us? This is something Jesus continually showed…continually shows. And preoccupations with the self, with rules, with “personal mission” turns the focus away from the neighbor…which is where Jesus’ focus always was.
Yvonne, your personal mission is to love God and your neighbor as yourself. If you can master that, let me know. I continue to struggle with it…and I suspect I will forever.
Although I 100% support removing christian cliches from our vernacular, I don’t agree with everything that was said.
I don’t think there’s a large problem with using christian as an adjective, I’d have to read the piece the author mentioned but there are plenty legitimate ways to use it.
I also have a problem with saying “you can’t love someone but hate what is an essential part of them”. Define what “essential part” is. Isn’t the tendency to sin in all humans? We’re called to love all humans, but there’s no way we could ever love the sinful attributes. It’s easier to see it in light of “I hate that this element exists that pulls them further from the father.” You need to define a lot of what makes identity that plenty of people will disagree with and that makes the claim unstable. Would you love a man who has a sexual orientation towards children? Could you ever say you love that part of them? Is that not a part of their likes/dislikes; something that qualifies as part of their identity? This was a poor point in my opinion.
Everything else I agree with and it’s always good to add more thought behind words; they should be meaningful and intentional.
Just a point of clarification: you can’t have a sexual orientation toward children. Pedophiles don’t have an identified attraction to a gender. There’s an abnormality there.
And read Bell’s book. It’s worth the read.
And thanks for reading the blog!
A pedophile takes advantage of someone by overpowering them, there is a clear and damaging imbalance when a 50 year old rapes a 10 year old. Homosexuality, on the other hand, engage in balanced relationships with people near their own age and mental maturity. Please don’t compare them. Plus, no, I can’t imagine anyone loving only the peices of a person they seem acceptable. Would it be okay for me to say I love even though you are a Christian?
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Oh my life. So good.
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Insightful, thought-provoking, and I agree wholeheartedly.
Timothy, you do a great job of respectfully responding to all the comments, and I admire that. I have honestly never heard the teaching that a 1-1 relationship with God is not in the Bible. Can you give me information about this teaching? What stream of Christianity it came from? I guess I should go back and read through your blog, as you may address it fully there. Someone just shared this article on my FB page, so it’s my first taste of your writing and thoughts. I appreciate this article a lot.
Hi Amy, thanks for the kind words. Paul talks about meeting the Christ, embodying the Christ, but never uses the language of “1-1 relationship.” That language has now become the telos, or “the culmination” of much of Christian teaching. Such ego-centric, “I’m certain I’m saved because I have a relationship with Jesus” is not present in scriptures, and has only been very popular in the last 150 years or so. Ancient Christianity found Christ most present in the community, and the individual only acted as an embodiment of Christ as an extension from the community.
We’ve made the faith so personal that, while it might affect an individual, it rarely changes the world anymore. Christianity is a religion of relationships, but it’s people connecting to people through Christ, not Christ connecting with individuals on their own.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I have some difficulties with your comments that I’d like some clarification on. For simplicity, I’ll go point by point. I’m sure through the slew of comments above, some of these have been addressed above. If you have the time, it may be worthwhile to address comments like these in a separate post so things don’t become repetitive in the comments.
5. “That’s not Christian…”
— Sure, you’re absolutely right in that we often misuse the phrase. The examples you gave above are atrocious uses of the phrase. However, I think you go too far in discarding the phrase altogether (at least that’s how it comes across to me). There are certainly some things that aren’t Christian (as an adjective). It is not a Christian thing to do (as a believer) in blaspheming the name of God. Some may say that person may not be a believer. True. However, that person may be blaspheming in jest or in a joking manner. May not be blaspheming in heart, but only in word. That’s not Christian. It’s not a behavior that is becoming of a believer. This may be a game of semantics, but when all we have is words on a website, I think your choice of words should be examined more carefully.
4. “I love the sinner but I hate the sin..”
— I’m in nearly complete opposition by what you’ve said. Here’s why: Although I do agree with you that sin is part of being a sinner, which we as humans cannot disentangle, there is One who can. For those who believe, God does not judge us based on our sin. He sees us as clean, spotless, and righteous, “while you were yet sinners.” That means that God can disentangle the sin from the sinner. Secondly, that’s what sanctification means. God chiseling on our hearts to remove sin from it. That’s why Paul tells us to war against sin. It’s not just warring against sin of the unbeliever, but of sin of the believer as well. That’s why I can love my neighbor, who practices homosexuality, and hate his homosexuality. If “love the sinner, hate the sin” isn’t acceptable, then you can’t “love thy neighbor.”
3. “You need to surround yourself with some good Christian people…”
— 2 things: 1 – referencing your specific scenario. You claim to understand that your friend was trying to tell you to seek faith-based advice. Then you immediately say that is “soapy air.” Brother, I think that’s a problem. I don’t know exactly what problem you had that needed sorting, but if it was anything spiritual, then there is not a single problem with soapy air. You should, in fact, only breath “soapy air” when you need your dishes cleaned. If your problem though was of a different sort, like a plumbing issue, then I’m right there with you.
— 2 – generally speaking, I don’t see a problem with soapy air. Most times, (as far as I can think of) this phrase relates to trying to get out of bad situations. Are your friends drug addicts and you feel tempted by that? Formerly engaged in drug activity before? Vulnerable in that situation? Get some new friends. You probably need to surround yourself with some good Christian people. It helps with accountability and making sure you don’t slip into dangerous activity.
2. “You just have to do God’s will…”
–God is out for His own glory. Anything short of that means that God is out for something else’s glory, and that’s not the character of God as described in the Bible. Reflecting on the different options for an answer, I would probably defer to a singular will of God. Here’s why. If God does not have a singular will, then it becomes much more difficult to believe that God knows what is going to happen. If God’s will is not singular, then that means that the future, which God is already supposed to know, isn’t known yet. Now this is tricky, and something I am much more willing to leave up to the mystery of God rather than try to dissect into a single answer. I don’t know if God has a singular will but based on my own cognitive ability, it seems more logical to believe that God has a singular will. Now, I have to address the answer to my statement. It’s clear throughout scripture that God has an intention to do something, and people pray and ask Him to do something else. So what do we do with that? Again, it’s tough. But here’s how I like to think of that situation, as it was described to me at my church. Our petitioning of God through prayer is less of an attempt to change God’s mind, but rather, is God’s way of allowing you to engage in the divine work of the Creator. So when your wife has cancer, and you pray for God to heal her, and it happens, that you changed His mind in not letting her die. It is more likely that the Holy Spirit stirs you to pray so that you can closely knit with what God is doing, namely, healing your wife. He was probably going to heal her anyway. You probably didn’t convince Him to do so.
1. “It’s all in God’s plan…”
— Unfortunately, I have to squarely disagree with you. Is it something you should say right after someone died? No, that’s probably not the best idea, but that doesn’t diminish it’s ability to be Truth. “We cannot use God to fill in the gaps between events and the people they effect.” Yeah, in fact, you can. To say that you can’t means that something else can, and that God isn’t in control. Which means that He shares control with something else. That simply isn’t true. Then for your following statement; “…God takes the pain… and makes resurrection.” Yeah, that’s true, but it doesn’t take away the fact that pain is involved. The cross was painful. Jesus as man had pain receptors. And yes, although there was resurrection, there was still pain. You’re right in that God doesn’t cause these things, but He does let them happen. How many times have we heard the testimony of the person who says, “In my pit, He pulled me unto himself” or “I never believed in God until I hit rock bottom.” That’s because sin blinds us to the light of Christ. If (in my sin) I believe that I can do it myself, I don’t need God. So he lets me continue to stumble and fall until I no longer believe that I can do it myself, and that I need a Savior. To say what you have said, is to mitigate the testimony of millions. Including myself. Praise Him for letting us partake in pain. Even the closest of God’s twelve suffered horrible deaths. The pain we suffer through draws us closer to Him. That’s the point of suffering.
In closing, I don’t think you’ve done much of this intentionally. I think you’ve tried to relate these phrases to specific situations where they were misused. And that’s all fine. However, I think there is too much that is generalized from these situations that treads closely to some awfully fine lines.
Thanks for commenting. I think it’s clear you and I come from different places on these phrases, and on scripture. I’m not sure there’s much else I can say or clarify on any of these except to say that, if suffering and pain is intended to draw me closer to God, I’ll opt out. That’s not a God I’d put my trust in.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for your quick reply. I’m sad that you and I don’t see eye to eye on scripture. To me, it seems awfully clear. If you could humor me and your readers by answering this:
How do you interpret these scriptures?
1 Peter 4:12-19
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
1 Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
There is a difference between saying “troubles bring us close to God” and “troubles are meant to bring us close to God.”
To say that God is in the pain business, even passively, is to suggest that God’s hands are dirty in pain.
The verses you describe here are verses meant to bolster someone going through an ordeal. As it was illegal to be Christian for the first 200 years of its existence (and, yes, remains illegal in many places still) it’s not surprising that the authors of these texts would try to encourage people being persecuted. But to try to say that the persecution is necessary or even purposeful to achieve the telos of God’s intention(s) for the world is to violate the second commandment, I think: do not use God’s name uselessly.
Biblical prooftexting is such a fun game. You can prove and disprove about any point you might want to doing so. As Luther said, “Scripture has a wax nose.” You can twist it however you want.
Instead, the overarching message of the scripture is to be taken into account, I think. And that overarching message is not that God is involved in pain, but rather that God stands with humanity in pain, causing life out of the death…not forcing death upon a person to cause life.
I don’t appreciate the prooftexting comment. When we’re engaged in theology inquiry, and neither one of us is coming way out of left field, I think it’s dangerous to say that if prooftexting when I’m not. There is nothing about the context of the these scriptures to say that I’m prooftexting. In fact, I used these specifically because I’m not prooftexting comment. As a pastor, you should be careful to condemn a brother on such things. I’m not trying to call you a bad pastor, or say that no one needs to listen to you, but rather, I’m trying to gain us both some clarification in what was meant by words you have spoken – as a pastor – leading a flock. Please don’t simply dismiss me as prooftexting.
Back to the point. what I find interesting is how life comes out of death. The question is “by what means does life come out of death?” You and I both agree that it does, but how is where we disagree. Here is what you have said. God has no hand in suffering, not even passively. Therefore, God, must not know about suffering before it happens. Which means that He is not all knowing. Because if He knows about it, and then it happens, then he didn’t stop it when He could. That means that something else controls thing in the absence of God’s knowledge.
I meant no harm in that comment. I apologize for offending. It wasn’t my intent.
But Biblical citation is a common defense against questions of systematics, and I was just trying to point out that the presence of a Biblical passage that seems to affirm a thought does not prove that the thought is intentional or “there,” as we would say.
And I was serious when I said that it is “fun.” No mockery intended. It is fun, because it gives the allusion of tightly sealed arguments…which makes us feel good.
I think the philosophical categories that we have for God do need reevaluation. But you bring up good points. Rather than resolve them, though, I think holding those questions in tension is more important than resolving them.
If we believe in a God that is pulling or not pulling levers of causation, we have a very tidy God…but not a very responsible one.
Thank you for commenting. I do my best not to be a bad pastor. We all reserve the right to be misunderstood, I hope, and allowed to apologize. And I always reserve the right to be wrong.
Dumb question but why does God need to be out for glory at all? You said he has to be after His glory or something else’s but I don’t know what that means.
And again, forgive me, but you say that if God doesn’t fill the gap than something else can. Why can’t it be the human condition that fills the gaps? I refuse to believe in a God that knows everything and micromanage lives only to watch children die of starvation or let them be raped as slaves. Can’t He still be in control of the big picture and not the only reason you spilled your coffee on your nice suit this morning?
Here is a very good article about suffering, and God’s sovereignty in it.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Amber. To say I have trouble with the article you provide is to put it mildly.
I dare not…I won’t…encourage someone to joy in their suffering. Have sat by the bedside of too many; having buried too many children in my young ministry, I dare not.
I will not.
I will only point to the cross and say, “God is here.” Not that God caused it. Not that we should rejoice in it. Not even that God has a bigger plan for the suffering. Only, “even here, God is.”
Anne Lamott’s book “Stitches” is, I think, a good thought on suffering.
Why did I never meet a pastor this awesome before? I am sending you all the love and support my jaded ex-christian heart can ^_^
Click to access 0e1135781_1338842499_0e1135781_article-does-god-want-his-children-to-suffer.pdf
Again, thanks for reading. I can’t endorse this article, either.
Unfortunately i think there is some confusion on what joy means and what happiness means. Happiness is an emotion, which in a hospital room rarely exists. Joy on the other hand is permanent, and is one of many mercies that God bestows to us. These articles are spot on. To deny that God does not use suffering for His glory unfortunately denies much of the Bible, both Old and New Testament. I would encourage you, Tim, to point to some Scripture to refute what these articles discuss.
Patrick, to suggest that deep joy is found in the hospital room of the stillborn baby indicates that you haven’t spent much time there. I get the distinction; it was not a mistake on my part.
Instead of rehashing my position, I wrote a blog post about it. This latest one.
It’s clear we don’t agree on this, and I think that’s OK. We don’t have to agree. I don’t have to endorse the articles because I think they’re less true than more true. You can disagree with me on it. Read the article for my long answer, but I think that’s pretty much all I’m willing to say on that particular topic.
I do appreciate the thoughtful inquiry and, again, am sorry if my comments offended. Humor and lightheartedness is difficult to ascertain in this medium.
I have read your new article for today. Wow is all I have to say.
“I am not one to believe that God caused the crucifixion for some atonement.”
That sentence sir, is a denial of the Gospel. Sin entered the world. The penalty of sin is death. To fix it, God sent His son Jesus to die on a cross as payment for man’s sin. If you say that Jesus’s crucifixion does not atone for sin, then Jesus died for NOTHING.
It is an absolute denial of the Gospel, of what it does and what it means. When Jesus at Gethsemane prays, “Father, is there any other way” (paraphrased) and still goes to the cross, you simply can’t say God didn’t know about that.
I would strongly strongly suggest that you consult some strong Biblical teachers to check where you are on this position. You are the pastor of a church, whose people sit in seats seeking spiritual shepherding. And you might be leading them astray. You aren’t going to want to hear that, but someone has to tell you. Seek the Lord. You’re willingness to maybe be wrong on such substantive foundational issues is disheartening.
And the most worrisome thing? You have yet to show me, or anyone who reads your blog any shred of evidence backed by the Bible.
I thank you for reading, Patrick. Again, it’s clear we disagree. Substitutiary atonement is not the only theory for the cross; there are many others, including the one I’ve posited, that Christians have expressed throughout the ages.
Please do not post on the behalf of Christians because almost every point you made was incorrect and not true. Especially do not use reference to Rob Bell being that what he preaches does not match the Bible’s standards.
Thanks for reading Katelyn. I obviously do not speak for all Christians, but I do think I speak for some…or say what some feel they aren’t allowed to say.
Have you read Rob Bell’s book or just basing it off of what was said? There are some surprising things in the book, but the vast majority of what Bell wrote is not only biblically based but also part of Christian orthodoxy.
I’m scolding precisely because you are a pastor who is teaching exactly the opposite of what the Bible says. You haven’t given me or anyone here any scriptural reference to anything you claim. Additionally, you refuse to actually refute anything I’ve actually said, outside of “I don’t believe that’s true.” Without giving me a scriptural reason as to why. If you can, I would challenge you to actually articulate scriptural reasons for what you believe.
But you probably won’t. Instead you’ll use your own personal thought rather than the Bible to talk about God. Unfortunately, the God you describe isn’t the God of the Bible. I’ve given you proof. Where’s yours?
You blow me off as though I’m some fool worthy of discussion by your lack of substantive discussion.
You might say I’m calling you out. I am. Because that’s what the Bible instructs me to do.
Patrick, I’m not going to go text to text with you because, as I said, that’s exactly what people have done throughout the ages to tear each other down.
The God I speak of is the God shown in the Christ. The Bible I read is the same as yours. Your frustration, though, is not my fault.
I won’t play the proof text game. I won’t. We’ll play it forever. It feels good. It makes us right. It gives us the ability to scold each other.
I don’t want or need that ability. I don’t think Jesus calls it from me. Instead I’ll just draw in the sand.
Please don’t take my lack of playing the game as non-engagement, though. I am not a fool, nor am I unlearned. I’ve devoted the whole of my academic career to this study.
But I’ve played these games before. They are not fruitful. This blog is about me not playing them anymore.
I don’t intend to respond again about this. I’ve given much time today to do so. As I said, it’s clear we come from different places. We will not see eye to eye. Your scolding does not speak well. We don’t need to do this. We can, as Paul and Peter did, shake hands and agree to work on behalf of the poor despite our differences.
That is what I intend to do.
Unfortunately, you’ve also given me no reason to understand how I’m prooftexting. Simply referring to text in the Bible doesn’t automatically mean you’re prooftexting. I don’t know how many times ive asked for an explanation for what you believe, yet you dismiss everything. You not engaging this discussion. Not even on a basic theological level. No explanation for anything at all.
The God you describe is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is described in the text, because the Bible is made of text. You do not rely on that text. Instead, you rely on something else, and that’s what’s scary for your congregation. And unfortunately, i dont even know what that something else is because you wont tell me. This is no game, this is an attempt to rebuke you, whether you’ve been to seminary or not. That doesn’t free you from rebuke.
My rebuke does speak well. It says that I love you enough and your congregation enough to say something when I have strong belief that you are in error. And Jesus says that’s what you’re supposed to do.
I will do this for this thread.
I will provide for you the basis for my understanding of these propositions from within the Biblical corpus. I do not like to do “text to text” arguments precisely because those arguments are no win situations. Within the Biblical text there are many and varied opinions on a whole range of subjects, some quite contradictory. If you’re interested in my take on that, read the blog post “Scripture and Responsibility.”
Secondly, I’m going to kindly ask you not to post anymore on my blog. I will not publish your responses. Your “concern” for me and my congregation, while I think is coming from a place of honesty, is offensive, particularly because…well…when I go to a doctor, I do not try to tell the doctor my diagnosis. I rely on her, as the expert, to provide me with some insight. I don’t come in blind, mind you, but they have done the study and the work.
I want to say, as humbly as I can (hence why I don’t like these exchanges), that I’ve done the study and the work. Degrees, awards, and publications attest to this. That’s all I’ll say on that. What I can suggest, though, is that you do some study on the Bible. Not in the Bible, but on the Bible: how it was formed, who wrote the texts, when they were written, etc. This would be enlightening for you, I hope. If you want to see some of my work on it, check out my post “The Bible Timeline You’ve Always Wanted (But Never Asked For).”
Finally, to your request:
For a response to “That’s Not Christian” I would point you to the many places in Scripture where God uses the outsider to do God’s work. Cyrus of Persia in Second Isaiah (44, 45), the pagan Magi in Matthew 2, Paul standing on Mars Hill in Acts 17, claiming that the God they have idolized is the God of Israel…all while pointing to the Greek idol. In these texts we see a God who uses instruments as God will.
When we say something is “not Christian” because it is outside of the box of Christianity–real or imagined–we limit the ability for God to speak as God will.
For a response to “Love the sinner; hate the sin” first note that I am primarily talking about sexual orientation here. Psychology has removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses; it’s time we remove it from the list of spiritual illnesses. This comes from my interpretation and understanding of the texts condemning homosexuality.
But even beyond that, my tradition doesn’t allow for such a strict delineation between saint/sinner. We are always both. Always. For evidence of this, look to Jesus preventing the stoning of the adulterous woman in John 8. As the Pharisees all walked away in their sin of self-righteousness, Jesus turns to the woman and acknowledges her sin as well. We cannot draw such clear lines. Or consider Zaccheus in Luke 19. His repentance does not come from Jesus loving him and hating his sin. He simply love Zaccheus.
For a response to “You Need to Surround Yourself with Good Christian People” I would point to Genesis 18 where Abraham invites in strangers and unwittingly entertains God. Or I would point to the Magi who give powerful witness to the Christ, and yet aren’t followers. Or I would point to Paul’s admonition for people not to divorce their spouse simply because they’re not Christian in 1 Corinthians 7. Or I would point to Jesus’ engagement with the Samaritan woman. The message of Jesus is about breaking down boundaries and engaging the world. When we live insulated, we start saying crazy things like “the world was created in 7 days.”
For a response to “You just have to do God’s will” I would point to the impossibility of using the phrase “doing God’s will” with any intellectual credibility. You seem to think it is “God’s will” to rebuke me. And yet, I seem to think it is God’s will to write and do as I do (though I reserve the right to be wrong; you should, too).
We use this phrase all the time to back up our behavior without the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that, by and large, God’s specific will is unknowable. For my thoughts on that, check out my post “God’s Will is Not an Algorithm.”
If you want a Biblical citation, note the many times that Paul, in trying to do “God’s will” is shipwrecked. Was he wrong? Or was he making meaning out of his situation.
Finally, “It’s All in God’s Plan” is the phrase used by many well meaning but ill informed people who feel that all needs to be explained. The Biblical witness, the stories of the Bible, contain a healthy dose of mystery in them. Likewise, they contain a number of different interpretations for “God’s Plan” in the specifics.
I do believe that MLK was right, the arch of the universe bends toward justice. I believe that is God’s ultimate telos. But I am unwilling to believe that contained in the specifics of that telos are the individual events of moment-to-moment activity,
The lever-pulling God is not one I subscribe to. God, in Jesus, shows power in weakness and humility, not moment-to-moment scheming. This mystic understanding of God is more difficult to embrace, but is, I find, more life-giving and true.
This, no doubt, is not satisfying to you. You want prooftexting. I won’t do that.
Prooftexting, by the way, is pulling specific verses from a variety of sources and using the verses to back up a system of thought.
Within the Bible I can prooftext defenses for racism, slavery, homophobia, polygamy, universalism, substitutionary atonement, gambling, divination, spousal abuse, war, and suicide (looking at you, Jonah, for that last one).
The presence of a specific text does not indicate a system of thought. To get at those systems of thought, those arches, you must look at the grand scope of the story, and for the Christian, I believe, specifically at Jesus.
And now that I have, as Paul rightly notes, “done what I do not want to do,” I am finished.
Biblical scholarship is not just reading your Bible. It is reading about the Bible. It is reading commentaries from a variety of places on the Bible. It is looking at faith not as an encyclopedia of right answers, but as a journey of engagement with God and the world.
Here I stand. I can do no other.
You, sir, have seriously earned my respect, and seeing your responses to your angry sounding critics has really touched my heart and earned you a loyal reader.
One of my dear friends just posted this on her Facebook today:
“Friends, I’m sad to share that Baby S has already gone back to the Father. I miscarried our little punkin. I’m doing ok. We are sad, but we know without a doubt that God is good and is taking care of all of us. Blessed be his name. Job 1:21.”
There can be great joy in suffering when you know who God is, what He does, and that He is for your good.
Amber, I fully believe that God loves and has welcomed the baby into his arms. I fully believe that you can have great joy in suffering.
I also believe that you do not have to have great joy in suffering. You can just suffer, too. That is also acceptable.
I do not believe that God caused that baby to miscarry.
That is my position.
Did your dear friend really want you to share that? Now, I’d like to add “great joy in suffering” to the list above. As a non-Christian it sounds horrific to me that you (or the parents) are sitting around gluing smiles to your face or worse that you are actually joyful at this sad event. It’s great that you can find comfort in God but joy – not in God – but in a terrible situation? This had been one of the biggest reasons why I abandoned Christianity because I felt I wasn’t allowed to really have emotions. I always had to have my happy mask because there’s God so we gotta be thankful and happy!!!! Happy happy!!!!!!! It was something I never managed to do correctly even when I was a firm believer and it left me feeling, at my lowest moments, like no one could empathize or understand me. Being sad and angry that my father died when I was a teen was unexceptable for my church and I’m sorry, I’d rather mourn, yell at the sky, and feel that pain when I think of him than pretend I find any joy in it.
Meant unacceptable * oops
I am curious. What other theories are there for the cross besides substitutiary atonement?
Amber, a really great question. Substitutionary atonement was trumpeted by Anselm of Canterbury, and while a theory of atonement, is not the only theory that theologians over the centuries have concluded. It became the most popular, however, because, I think, it is the simplest, the most “black and white” and one that gives into our idea that God desires satisfaction…much like we, in our dealings, desire satisfaction.
That is one of the reasons I do not buy substitutionary atonement…it seems most like something I would do. I would demand ransom. I would demand payment. And that doesn’t seem very Jesus-like.
I’ll point you toward a theologian in my own tradition, Ted Peters, who has detailed a few models of atonement: http://www.plts.edu/docs/ite_models_atonement.pdf
One of the problems I have with popular, organized Christianity, is that it turns a blind eye to any other soteriology than substitutionary atonement.
I should also note that I am embarrassed that I gave in to Patrick’s goading and mentioned schooling and degrees. That was small. Mea culpa.
thank you, thank you for for this post… have you seen this little video about sympathy and empathy? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw I find we Christians tend towards the “at least” or it’s in God’s plan kind of sympathy.
Thank you for such an informative presentation of present day scholarship and the hope it holds for the future of Christianity . . . the possibility to live in healthy relationship to Christ and the larger family of humankind while moving into the 21st century understanding of the reality of the Universe in which we dwell.
Re. the use of curse/coarse language, I have long thought that the reason Christians have been taught that the use of four letter words was considered inappropriate and sinful, has a lot more to do with the fact that most of them are angry words, not because there is anything intrinsically shameful in the words themselves. Au contraire, having words available to express angry feelings is often healing and helpful, and the fact that these words are forbidden makes them even more helpful in expressing angry feelings.
Excellent post. Truly something that all of Christendom needs to hear loud and clear. Thank you.
Thanks and peace, Brent.
From lots of these comments, I can deduce God has been made in man’s image, since he works only for his own Glory, because apparently, nothing else is more important. Sounds like a man to me. HA!
I really wish people who are so fond of throwing Biblical verses at others would seriously study the Bible. And as the Pastor has pointed out, not just read it but learn about it. Who is believed to have written the books, the books that didn’t make it, and precisely who decided which books would be included in the New Testament.
I believe God knows everything. He knows every path your life can take, every result. You are allowed to make choices. He causes nothing, he simply knows. I was once a firm believer in the Bible and the infallibility of it all until I studied the truth about the New Testament. About who decided which books would be included, about the wide diversity of beliefs about Christ in early Christianity. (Google it.)
I now know enough to know I don’t know sh**. I believe certain things, but I am ready to admit I could be wrong. Nobody knows the truth. Every last one of us is clueless. The best we can say is what we believe. Another of those worst things a person can say is I know the truth. No, you don’t. You are as clueless as I am.
Sorry, Pastor, some of the comments kinda irked me.
Well said Shane, if only more Christians were so open to their own lack of understanding and knowledge!
I can understand many of your views, and can say that I have had some of the same thoughts. But also know that spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Kind of like when I was a little girl in Sunday school memorizing Bible verses. Those words mean so much more to me now that I’ve gained wisdom. Wisdom from also being away from the Christian life, and coming back. I also know that I have never met the perfect Christian, and that is why we are often called hypocrites. I also know people who call themselves a Christian just because their grandma attends church every Sunday. And most importantly, there is never anyone so far gone or bad that God can’t reach down and pick you up. Been there done that. His GRACE is sufficient for me. and you, and you, and you…
I just read your blog ‘5 Phrases I Think Christians Shouldn’t Say’. I will admit that I have not read all the replies or your followup comments but I hope that if you expand the list that #6 is ‘Oh let me play Devils’ advocate’. I was on a church board for a while and someone continually used that phrase until I pointed out that ‘if we are indwelt by the living spirit of Christ’ then we shouldn’t need any help from the adversary in making decisions about church matters.
“I love gay people, I just hate that they act on their homosexual orientation…”
“It’s unhelpful because, you can’t love me apart from my sexuality.”
I’m not a Christian and have nothing in particular against homosexuality, but I think your argument here is simply wrong. One can love what someone is and still hate things he does. Indeed, if you believe in free will, you have to be willing to separate what he is from what he does, since free will implies that he could have chosen to do something else.
Consider someone who is so passionately against dishonesty that whenever he sees someone being dishonest he hits him. You can love him for his passion and still hate the way he acts on it.
I think that the example you give and sexual orientation are categorically different.
A categorically similar example would be if someone said they loved me, but hated my heterosexuality.
I would say that you can’t love me apart from my sexuality.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
Thank you for this. Seriously… thank you.
I wish you had been the pastor of my church as I was growing up! Check out the Wesleyan Methodist denomination to understand why I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree with every word you say here! I spent most of my childhood listening to the things that would get me locked in hell after I die instead of learning what I now know to be the more realistic ideals of Christianity (love, compassion, acceptance, grace, peace, and yet more love). Being threatened with hell so much only made me rebel!
Honestly, if more Christians followed this advice, I’d probably still consider myself a Christian. Posts like this make me think I should reconsider.
There are thoughtful Christians in the world, Rachel. Perhaps you’re one of them.
I have many thoughtful Christian friends… Sadly though I was raised in a backward, dogmatic sect of Christianity that left me begging God to kill me in my sleep before I screwed up so badly that I ended up in hell. These days I consider myself an atheist, though when the chips are down, I pray… And I have one last fleece out there ala Gideon, and finding posts like this make me wonder…
I feel the exact same way! If all Christians were like this there’d be a helluva lot more of them, that’s for sure!
Best damn article I’ve read from a pastor in a long, long time.
How did you get back to your faith? What helped you?
Through practice. No big conversion experience. No big “ah-hah.”
I quiet slipped away from faith (though it was quite violent in my own head and heart), and quietly slipped back in with a faith refigured.
So many want a mental conversion or a physical sign. They want confirmation of correctness…rightness.
I had to give up the binary of rightness/wrongness. Instead I came to see that was the wrong question; the wrong goal.
But as to “how”…I think it’s as mysterious as salvation itself. Or maybe it is salvation.
Regardless, the hard heart either way, the love of binary and “either/or,” it prevented me from being in the church and outside the church. Instead, a contemplative view is, I think, helping me to be church in a new way.
That’s my journey…in a few sentences.
Thanks for writing and asking.
This is the most sensible thing about Christianity I’ve read in a long time. I practice another religion but honor all. Some times I’m floored by with some people say in the name of their religion.
Will you please be a pastor in my area? Please?
🙂 Are you someplace tropical? Cause with this Chicago winter, that might seal the deal.
This was great to read. It summarizes precisely why I currently distances myself from church. The one attended contained many Christians who communicated these very sentiments either directly or subtly. As one who is progressive, it just hurt too much after a while.
I am glad to see this from a pastor. Thank you.
I recently lost my only child to a drunk driver… I can attest that the statement, “It’s God’s plan” is hurtful. Instead of soothing, as I’m sure the remarkers, unthinkingly, intend – it makes me angry inside.
Tess, I am so sorry for your loss. I don’t think it was in Gods plan for this to happen. I think God was and is with your child, and you, in this pain. I trust that God can make resurrection here in many ways, but I also trust that it’s ok to admit that it’s damnable…this situation.
May light perpetual shine upon them.
I weep for Protestants
But I also weep for most facets of people. And take joy in them, too.
I’ll tell you as a non-christian, one thing I’d like to never hear again. “Good strong christian values” To me, this sounds like you’re saying my values are less good, or maybe weaker. The other side is, I’ve never known a person to say those words who actually had thoughts of their own. You may have good values, they may be ones you feel are strong and withstand the test of time, they may be Christian in origin for you, but don’t assume other faiths values aren’t worthy of the same standing. I used to go to a nursing home with my cat and visit people. A man used to come by and give communion to people who were unable to go to church. I happened to stop by a room just as he finished and he stayed to watch the tricks. At the end he said, “that is such a christian thing to say.” Now, I don’t like making trouble for the sake of trouble but as I left I looked to my cat and said, “Yes, we follow the Wiccan reed.”
Bravo! This is so eloquent and brilliant. Growing up in an evangelical church, my family and I constantly heard these phrases and thought the exact same things. The way you articulated our feelings is so mind blowing. Thank you. So many of us have reacted saying that we would return to church if we had a pastor like you who truly understood what God meant and not what the institution decided it means. There’s currently a great debate going on on Facebook between my cousins because of your blog. Love it. Maybe you can join in! Thank you again!
Thanks, Ben. Many blessings to you all! I pray the conversation is fruitful!
This was wonderfully written and put into words my very similar thoughts. Our church has been recently blessed with a new pastor and I swear (pun intended!) this could have been his blog. I would add to that list “I don’t have to go to church to feel close to God.” (Of course not. My two college-aged kids don’t have to come home for me to feel close to them either, but we certainly are more focused on each other’s thoughts, words and actions when we’re together. And spending time together as often as possible allows us to go back out into our own worlds feeling connected to one antother in a way that would be lost otherwise.) And also “I don’t go to church anymore because it’s just filled with hypocrites.” (Yup, hypocrites, liars, adulterers, idolaters, people who covet, people who take the Lord’s name in vain, people who wear mixed fabrics, women who hold positions of leadership…What in the world should we all be doing in church?). Yup, give me some good ol’ Christian cursing any day!
OMG! (was that cursing?) – I have left several religions because I have had these (and more) thoughts and am not accepted for them. I was almost kicked out of my catholic confirmation class for some questions I raised. I refuse to go back to LDS for their cultish and blind behavior. My biggest issue with most ‘Christians’ is that they don’t recognize and understand the difference between faith and religion.
Studies show that people who swear are more honest than those that don’t. And if there’s anything modern Christianity needs it is definitely more Honesty.
I’ve always personaly felt that curse words are more of a stumbling block for the Christians that hear them then the ones that use them. Christians use it as a way to judge others when they hear a word society or the majority of Christians say shouldn’t be used. Curse words are no different in meaning or context than the filler words many Christians use instead. Many of those that use the filler words then judge those who expressed the same thought in the same context to be “less Christian” than them. I would rather use the curse word than use the filler and judge others and in the end be judged by God for my judgement of others.
you forget “who are we to judge” which is fine and dandy until someone crosses our personal moral lines, say pedophiles, or human traffickers, or dolphin trainers.
…dolphin trainers are the worst.
Someone may have already posted something along similar lines.
I didn’t find this offensive. I found a couple of the five mentioned to be taken out of context of the intended meaning. For a Christian (or any person really) you need a level of compassion when you are talking to those going through difficult times. I think we can agree on that. Misplaced “idioms” can seem compassionate to the author of the statement but damaging to the recipient. If this article were to focus on the careful use of these statements, I would be in total agreement. I could side with you on #5 and #4. However, deleting ALL of these statements is a bit farfetched to me.
As a fellow minister, I found myself in more opposition to your reasoning than the statements themselves. For instance, “I’m even more suspicious of people who claim that God’s greatest wish is to have us be in a relationship with God.” — (#2 “you just have to do God’s will.”) I do know that His “wish” is for us TO HAVE a relationship with Him. 2 Peter 3:9b – “…not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” And we both know what the reasoning for repentance is. So that we can have a relationship with Him.
Another example is, “I am utterly suspicious of people who claim to know the specific will of God.” I’m with you on that statement by itself. I’m not with you on defending your claim against “you just have to do God’s will.” It is used more times than not when someone is having to make a tough decision and seeking advice. I use it in counseling many times to get those that are leaning on their own viewpoints and desires to seek what God might want for their lives. We both know that prayer can reveal God’s will to us. The statement is used to seek prayer as a guide to make those decisions. But, I always give them practical advice on different ways to discover God’s will instead of leaving them hanging to search for it.
As for #1 – I don’t use it although I believe that God does have a plan. And His plan is to bring the good out of every situation. (Rom 8:28) I don’t know the how or the why. I don’t claim to. I just know and have experienced that He does. I’d give lots of examples, but (longer post).
In any case, God Bless you and your ministry.
First time reading your blog, and loved your “5 Phrases Xtains shouldn’t say” list! I agree with your thoughts on suffering and God’s plan, and a curse word is exactly what is needed to express your emotions at times.
Twenty years ago my Mother died unexpectedly at age 54. Just a few weeks later, a coworker’s elderly mother also died. Going through the receiving line at the memorial for his Mother, I stopped and shook my friend’s hand and told him, “Dan, I just went through this 6 weeks ago. And I don’t know about you, but this sucks, doesn’t it?” His reply, “Yeah, it sure does.” Saying his Mom was old, and not suffering anymore, and was in heaven didn’t cut it at that particular moment.
My point is NOT that there is one correct way to connect with and console people who are suffering and experiencing loss. If someone is the “finds joy in suffering” type, great! The idea here is to meet people where they are at. And where they are at will change over time. My take is that most people are the “it sucks” type–particularly early after the bad thing or loss has occurred. Our American culture is very bad at comforting people during suffering or loss. Don’t know if Christian’s are any different than the larger culture. I suspect we are way too quick to grab the emotional-spiritual band-aid by saying “He’s with God now,” or “It’s part of God’s plan.” Not that these things are not true–they are. However, the band aid is more for our discomfort about “not knowing what to do,” than the experience of the suffering person.
Also, it is very hurtful for “real” Christians to see others as “less” Christian if they are at the “this sucks” stage rather than the “it’s part of God’s plan” stage. To me, Jesus didn’t seem to thrilled in the Garden about being crucified, or his disciples falling asleep, or many other losses He experienced while he was here “fully human.” I am sure He had his times when He felt “this sucks.” I find great comfort in that, because it shows that God really does understand how I (and everyone else) feels.
Looking forward to reading your blog in the future-thanks for taking time to write it! Yours in Christ!
Reblogged this on Frazzled Editor and commented:
If church was more like this, I’d go. From a pastor, and simply perfect.
In your blog on point #4 you say: “It’s unhelpful because, you can’t love me apart from my sexuality…You can’t love me and yet hate an essential part of me.” I would contend that their attitudes toward sexual behavior is an essential part of who people are. I’m not advocating hatred to anyone, but I believe it is possible and Christlike to identify sin and disapprove of it without being hateful.
There are numerous examples in scripture where God loves people but disapproves of behavior (two examples: Moses flying off the handle at the Israelites and God punishing him for that willful behavior; Jonah defying God and going the opposite direction from Ninevah and God sending the great fish to catch him and return him to his task).
There are also examples in scripture where God disapproves strongly of someone’s sexual behavior and yet loves the person. For example, David’s sin with Bathsheba. In the case of the woman caught in adultery, Christ refrains from condemning her but also says that she should “go and sin no more.” He also points out the serial marriages of the woman at the well and notes she is living with someone to whom she is not married. In both cases, Christ notes the sin but loves the sinner.
What do you think? Am I missing something? Thanks for your thoughtful blog.
Thanks for the note. You are correct in that I can dislike certain sexual events and acts. Promiscuity, abuse, adultery, pedophilia…yes. All of these and more.
But these are not orientations, and as a heterosexual, no expects me not to act on my sexuality in appropriate ways. But that’s not the case for homosexuals. Their sexuality is often only seen as an act/choice.
I can’t not act on my sexuality in some way. I’m not called to chastity. No one has ever said that they love me but hate that I act on my sexuality in a responsible way. And yet, my gay and lesbian friends…acting responsibly with regard to their orientation…hear it all the time.
That’s the distinction I’m going for.
I’ve been told to surround myself with Christians so many times. Being in college, I had been reminded very often the past summer. In fact, one of my old Sunday school teachers told me that my first priority was to find some kind of faith group, or else I would get lost somehow.
“Thanks for telling me while I am seriously questioning my faith,” I said inaudibly.
I felt so constrained by the previous church environment. The kids at Sunday school didn’t like it when I got a temporary tattoo on my wrist. For crying out loud, it’s erasable! And yet, even though I shouldn’t have felt guilty, I felt ashamed because people disapproved of me. When I first grew my hair out (I’m biologically male), word got out that I might be gay, and I, in turn, was alienated. What does long hair have to do with being gay? Is it because long hair is generally associated with femininity and you associate femininity with gayness?! I don’t care about these gender stereotypes, or any other stereotypes. I can act in the manner I want to as long as it a) I don’t hurt you or anyone else in any way and b) I don’t hurt myself in any way.
The people at my old church were, at best, shallow towards me at least. Not some of the adults, because they were amazing people to me. It was mostly people of my age.
I’d be the one to be left out of the social group, I’d be the one pushed aside (not by the pastor but he didn’t seem to deeply care even then; emphasis on the word “seem”). Even though I’m not the most social person ever, I still feel as if I shouldn’t have been nudged into a corner (sometimes literally) and forced to talk with other people who didn’t fit in. I didn’t really care about being left alone, but being isolated is not a good feeling when you want to be accepted to even a small extent. Plus, their theology has a strictly one-sided approach, not allowing for dissenters. I guess that’s what ruined church for me for some time, and led me to wander off.
My parents were much more calm about my situation, and they definitely told me that I was still loved, no matter what.
Since then I have found a church to attend, with people I know who are taking classes with me. I care about church and the fact that it’s better to be together, rather than alone. (The church I go to is very open and allows, even encourages, discussion among congregants.)
I also want to share with you a link to a webcomic called “Dumbing of Age”. Joyce’s situation is akin to my experiences with certain individuals at my church (not the attitude, just the atheism part).
I’m not so sure about 4. If it were “I love you, but I hate that you’re an alcoholic,” the writer might see that it makes sense. But drinking is part of my identity!
I get the line of thought, but drinking is not an orientation. I don’t see the comparison as being alike.
Thanks for commenting.
“drinking is not an orientation”
It is if you’re an alcoholic.
#1: Yes! It seems to me like an excuse to not help someone, because “it’s all in God’s plan.”
Also, #4…I think that might be my favorite.
Thanks for the thoughtful article. Sometimes Christians have said things like that to me, and I wasn’t really hurt – but only because I emotionally distanced myself from the person so that their comments meant little. Christians should be aware that if they are sharing this type of commentary out of a desire to comfort and spread the word, they are often actually doing just the opposite of both of those things.
Well, I don’t think this sort of thing is limited to only Christians. People in general need to learn to think before they speak.
Regarding your thoughts on “Love the sinner, hate the sin”:
Are the gay people I know who don’t view sexual orientation as inherently a matter of one’s identity just… Wrong? Objectively wrong?
I apologize if that came across as snarky. (It’s looking a bit snarky to me right now, but I’m not sure how to fix it.) This is a genuine question, trying to probe the way you take it for granted. It seems as though you see it as a premise that everyone must work from.
On the other hand, it is a fact that sexual orientation is a part of many, many people’s sense of self-identity. That by itself would be enough to demand extra care & gentleness & love in how we talk about it.
And that might mean it’s better to avoid the phrase “hate the sin”–because it’s almost guaranteed to be perceived as hating the person, regardless of what anyone says to the contrary.
Thanks for the question. It’s a good one.
Speaking from a psychological and biological angle, all signs point to orientation being part of identity, not just expression. I say “just” because there certainly is the possibility that someone is/feels called to celibacy, and won’t express their sexuality through mutual sexual satisfaction.
So, do I know if they’re “wrong”? It seems to me that all signs, scientifically, are pointing to it being part of identity. But ultimate conclusions on this aren’t possible yet.
Beautifully and humbly written. Thank you for the thought provoking statements.
Not a Christian but if you (or someone like you) were at a church in my area, just maybe that would change. The world needs more people like you 🙂
Do you have a Facebook to follow? If not you most definitely should! People like you NEED to be seen by as many people as possible! You are just what this world needs.
Thank you for writing this blog! I agree completely with it all, but that’s not why I’m commenting. Something extraordinarily unexpected happened while I was reading through the comment thread.
I am awed by your response to every comment. More, by your confidence. To remain unchanging on your point, gracious with every off-topic and wildly misguided opinion, still hilarious (died laughing at that “bloody” comment), is why I am commenting. And, I feel the need to put into writing:
I hope to be as gracious and loving with people who disagree with me as you have been.
Grace and peace to you!
Frankly, when people say “it’s not christian to get tattoos” they are actually right, and that means they’ve read the bible. It says in there that you should not make permanent markings on your skin. I agree with a lot of the other stuff though, like never in the bible does it say you can’t do yoga, meditate, use swear words, and many other things that christians think you should never do.
Thanks Mike. I get what you’re saying. You’re right in that it is in Scripture.
I wonder, should Christian women always keep their heads covered? That’s also in the Bible.
There are many things in Scripture, behaviorally, that the church as a whole no longer follows.
Thanks for commenting!
This is true, I also think then that Christians should stop being so negative about gay marriage and allow that to pass, since it doesn’t affect their lives really at all. I really appreciate your ability to admit that there a lot of things in scripture that the church no longer follows, most people I talk to get really offended when that is pointed out, and it has always baffled me.
I certainly agree.
And, I would posit, gay marriage does affect many of my Christian friends who are gay and have been partnered for a while. Many are my colleagues!
Reblogged this on The South Dakota Cowgirl and commented:
This is well-written and brings up some amazing points!
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“love the sinner, hate the sin…”—I agree and disagree. For instance, I have a Christian friend who is an alcoholic. I love him, but I hate the illness, the sin of alcoholism. Being an alcoholic is an essential part of him. He’s been in recovery for years, but it’s always there waiting to trip him up again. So I think it’s okay to use that phrase sometimes.
I recently read an article that says that we, as Christians, treat homosexuality like we’re TSA agents—”Wait, you can’t bring that ‘luggage’ in here (the Church); you’ll have to check it at the door.” The author contends that we need to go beyond “love the sinner…” and embrace people for who they are in Christ. That’s their identity. They are “in Christ.” Their identity isn’t their sexual orientation. To say otherwise is to elevate the created to the status of creator (Romans 1). He contends, and I agree, that we are to love everyone as God loves us, but be uncompromising when it comes to the Truth.
You may disagree and that’s okay; just something to think about.
Thanks for commenting, Dennis. As I say in numerous posts above, alcoholism is not an orientation. And although all our identities are in Christ, we are sexual beings in Christ.
Suffice to say I do not find homosexuality to be a sin, and I find much of our language around it unhelpful.
I guess that’s the crux of the issue then, for I do see it as sin. Many, perhaps you, have fallen prey to our experience and culture. Our culture tells us that homosexuality is “an orientation” and that it’s okay. Couple that with our experience of either being homosexual or knowing “good people” who are homosexual and we begin to wonder, “how could this be sin?”
Abraham Lincoln once asked “how many legs does a dog have?” Four was the answer. “What if I call the tail a leg, then how many?” The audience replied “five.” Lincoln’s reply was, “No, it has four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” The point being that as 21st century Christians, calling homosexuality acceptable doesn’t make it so. You may not find my words helpful, though they are not meant to be hurtful or mean spirited.
I do not see how some Christians reconcile passages in Leviticus and Romans with their belief that homosexuality is okay. Before you say that we’re not under Levitical standards today, show me where Jesus said we could ignore the Law. It is true we’re under Grace and the Levitical practices of sacrifice for sin atonement are superseded by the work of Jesus, but I find no such standards for the rest of the law. It seems to me that a lot of “interpretive gymnastics” has to take place in order to either change the meaning of such passages or to ignore them. If we choose to go down that road, where does it end? Shall we say that the commandant to not murder doesn’t really mean that and it’s okay to kill someone? Or that laws on adultery are not valid today because that was a cultural thing? For the sake of brevity I will stop here.
It’s clear we’re not going to agree here.
Suffice to say I don’t feel I’ve “fallen prey” to culture. But I’ve gone at length on this issue above.
I do thank you for reading and commenting.
As proud as I am of a few swears I authored (Army will do that to you) I was forced to devise rules for my children about the when and where of cursing. What I came up with was they could curse but not in front of “Teachers, Preachers and Women”.
I’ll have to reconsider…
Well, encourage them to use them in place of platitudes. It will mean more.
Reblogged this on the Verity Paradox and commented:
I couldn’t have said it better… so I won’t!