Sunday, June 9, 2013

Cliché Christianity

Philippians 4:6 - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…" (New King James Version)

Ever quote only half a verse? You know, the part you LIKE? I call that "Cliché Christianity". Whenever someone is hurting we spout off these partial verses, sometimes even out of context, and pat ourselves on the back for being a fount of grace and wisdom to a needy brother or sister. Now, I'm not saying that it is wrong to encourage someone, but by grabbing only a part of a verse we can lose some great gifts from God.

The above verse is a good example of this. I purposely only gave you half the verse, because it is (actually more often than not) quoted as such. There is great truth that we miss when you don't bring the second portion into it:

Philippians 4:6 - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." (New King James Version)

I was "breaking bread" with a dear friend one evening (okay, it was steak, not bread - but I AM writing about clichés here), and he was sharing with me some difficult times he was having. But even in the midst of his torment, he had peace. He didn't really understand why, but he did. Other people were judging him; rubbing salt in his wounds (ANOTHER cliché! They just keep coming!). Yet, he KNEW that God wasn't. He knew the situation he was in was not the ideal - the perfect - but he was honest with God, and he KNEW that God was okay with it. Not saying that God was condoning or approving, but that, like a truly loving and empathic God, He cared. And by empathic I mean that God, by His Son Jesus, experienced the joys and pains of humanity and therefore feels WITH (empathy) us, not just FOR (sympathy) us.

Let's look at the above situation in relation to the verse - in total. Did my friend have reason to be anxious? Sure he did. And if he couldn't come up with a reason, I'm sure many of those other people would have given him substantial reasons to. But what does the verse say? "Be anxious for nothing…" I'm thinking of another cliché when I read that: "Be the ball". But the verse does not say to BE anxious, it says to be anxious for NOTHING. Remember, this is not the elimination of anxiousness - you can still be experiencing it in the midst of peace - just not BE it.

What did my friend do? He prayed. With thanksgiving. He made his requests known to God. He poured out his heart. THEN what happened? The peace of God. Now, I was having a little difficulty in phrasing that last sentence. I wanted to say something like "The peace of God was bestowed upon him like a gift." But that didn't fit the verse. The verse said that the peace of God will GUARD your heart and mind. The peace of God is not like a locked door, but more like a sentry. The first is an inactive barrier. The second is ACTIVELY keeping you secure. That means the peace is a presence. The Holy Spirit? A guardian angel? Perhaps. Sure fits.

One thing more: the peace of God "surpasses understanding". That means you will not be able to grasp it. Like finite trying to grasp infinite. You don't have to understand everything. Heck, where do you think the concept of "dark matter" came from? A math formula wouldn't work out to explain something in the universe, so "dark matter" was devised to make the formula work. And since the formula works, then it has been determined that "dark matter" MUST exist. Talk about mental gymnastics! But see? Wanting to understand is part of our nature. But you don't HAVE to. Sometimes it is best to just "let go and let God" (sorry, couldn't resist at least one more cliché!)

So remember: clichés sound good, but are rarely what is needed. Take time to be with someone in their hurt. A little empathy goes a lot farther to comfort someone. Remember: don’t judge until you've walked a mile in someone's shoes . . .

© Emittravel 2013

2 comments:

  1. Yeah, quoting without or out of context is always problematic at least. I always try to include enough to be clear without putting the reader to sleep, Denny.

    I mean 'Danny'. :)

    ReplyDelete