So, here we go with round 2 of statements Christians need to stop saying. Let’s not waste any time. Here are the top 5.
5.) Love the sinner/hate the sin
I think I understand the premise of this statement, but I also think we are fooling ourselves if we say we really believe this. “Love the sinner/hate the sin” is a more subtle form of judgement. We think you are wrong for your actions. Let’s take homosexuals for example (I most often hear this statement used in the context of homosexuals). Do you really love the sinner but hate the sin? How many homosexuals are you friends with? Would they be welcome at your church? If you really loved the sinner, but hated the sin, would you not reach out to some of them and befriend them?
Seriously, in how many contexts is this statement used? We only use it for the “serious” sins. Pornography, adultery, homosexuality, murder, rape. Ever heard it used to describe lying or greed or stealing? Me neither. Maybe this should tell us something about the intent of this statement.
4.) Unspoken prayer request
I need to make a confession…I have never prayed for an unspoken prayer request. People post these all the time on Facebook, and I always wonder why. Here is the deal…I want to know what you need me to petition to God on your behalf. An unspoken prayer request is as vague as it gets. In class, if a student wants us to pray for an unspoken request, I will make them clarify their request or keep it to themselves. There is no transformation without clarity. I have no way to follow up on you and walk with you through your struggle. I don’t get it.
During Jesus’s ministry, He would often ask people, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus would even ask this question to those who were blind or crippled. Now, it sounds silly that Jesus would ask a crippled or blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” Or does it?
Jesus knew that people often have no idea what they actually want, and he was going to make them clarify to him what they needed, even if the need was obvious.
Imagine a crippled man coming up to Jesus and saying, “Hey Jesus, I have an unspoken need. Could you please do this for me?” Sounds ridiculous. How are unspoken prayer requests any different?
If you do not want the world to know your problems, then find a few people you trust and get them to pray for you and walk with you. Clarity and specificity force us to expose our problem or need and provide an opportunity for others to pray intentionally for our individual need.
3.) Everything happens for a reason
Is that so? Tell me…how do you explain to the guy or girl who just tragically lost a parent or sibling that everything happens for a reason? What about me getting a ticket for parking the wrong way on the street this morning? Is God mad at me for watching too much tv? I mean, it was the Clippers/Thunder Game 5. I understand you mean well. You want to comfort the person who is hurting. But the reality is this is the last thing people need to hear when they are hurting.
Just some pastoral advice…stay away from the phrase “everything happens for a reason” when trying to help someone cope with tragedy. It does more harm than good.
I know when tragedy strikes, people are hurt and you want to say something to make it better. Believe me there are not words in those moments that can heal their wounds. What people need is not a wise statement from a sage but the comforting presence of a friend.
2.) The sermon was too long
There are few things that infuriate me more than this phrase. It comes in all sorts of packages. “Great sermon, but you just need to cut it down. I brought my stopwatch today. Just remember I am trying to make it to Red Lobster by noon.” Most of them are followed by a few chuckles and a back slap, but I know the comments are legitimate. Most of these comments are made by “Christians,” so I need to make two points:
First…if you are really struggling to make it through an hour or even two hours worshipping God, this is much less a reflection on the length or quality of the sermon and more of a reflection on your relationship with God.
Second…what kind of statement do you think this makes to those who are non-believers? They hear us talk about the sovereignty of God and how God alone is sufficient to sustain us and protect and comfort us, yet a sermon about God that is 45 minutes is just too long?! No wonder people outside of Jesus think of us as hypocrites. There are many days I am ashamed to be a Christian. Maybe instead of worrying about where you will eat or what time you are going to hit the golf course, you should listen to the sermon and allow the spirit of God to speak into your life. Please do me a favor and stop talking about the length of the sermon.
1.) I will be praying for you
Prayer is one of the greatest gifts we have as followers of Jesus Christ. Believe me, I get the premise of this statement, but we have taken this phrase and used it as a way to terminate our conversations with somebody else who is struggling. For many of us, “I will be praying for you” is a way for us to get out of actually having to walk alongside a person through difficult times. Honestly, how many times have you said, “I will be praying for you” fully knowing you had no intentions on praying for them?
We have taken the most powerful tool we have as followers of Jesus and used it as a tool to avoid taking action and being present through a difficult season in the life of another person.
Shame on us! How about instead of telling somebody you will pray for them (future tense), you actually stop right there (even if you are on the phone) and pray for them (present tense)? Or maybe you actually ask them what they would like for you to pray on their behalf? This specifies their issue for you, helping them to see you care and giving you an opportunity to pray specifically for their particular struggle. Or how about this…you decide to actually walk with this person through their struggle or difficulty? What a strange idea.
Whatever you decide, would you not agree that we must stop telling other people we are going to pray for them when our intentions are never to do so?