It’s time for less dense, more honest communication!
We recently stumbled across YouTube favorite Jefferson Bethke chastise Christians for offering cliches instead of comfort, but I realize Jeff’s sometimes brash, fast-talking approach isn’t for everybody. Besides, it’s not particularly helpful if there’s not much reason or a better thing to say. So inspired by our friends at Relevant Magazine, we decided to crack the Christianese.
Read on for five things Christians really should stop saying – and some alternatives to say instead.
“I’ll Pray About It”
Now, don’t get me wrong, prayer is vitally important. The power and ability to directly appeal to the creator of the universe, who so loved the world that he gave his only son, that’s a big deal. Thanksgiving, petition, honor, thinking on these things and letting our hearts be transformed can and does bring real peace. But here’s the problem:
That’s what a lot of people hear and think when we offer prayers, and it’s not good. By the same token, even said to fellow Christians, it can be a sign of merely passing concern: I can go home and say a quick prayer (if I even bother to remember) rather than offer food to the hungry, money to the needy, and comfort to the broken. Instead of brushing away hurts by habit, we should do instead.
“Everything Happens For A Reason”
Do they really? The quintessential book on bad things happening to good people is Job. Everyone knows Job, from the loss of his entire family and his wealth to the false comforts offered by all his friends to his final encounter with God. And you know what never gets answered? “Why?” Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die; Job’s friends say it must be a mere testing of faith, or he must have done something wrong and need to repent. What does God say? “Were you there when I created the world?” And the answer is no.
Closely related to the first saying, let’s be honest: instead of offering false comforting words, when we can’t know the reason (because really, who hasn’t asked “what’s the reason for this? why is this happening?”), it’s time to just be there for someone. We don’t know why it happens. But we do know the eternal hope that it points to. Let’s look to God for comfort instead of false promises.
“Unspoken Prayer Request”
Okay, this happens. Sometimes, it is hard for us to be open with the people we’re talking to. Saying “Hey, I have this thing going on in my life, but it’s private, so just know that I would really appreciate your prayers” is one thing. But for some reason making a prayer request “unspoken”? It can lead to gossip, it heightens people’s attention on the speaker – and frankly, it’s not unspoken; you’re asking for prayers, just not saying why.
More importantly, if it’s not something we’re comfortable sharing in a group, it doesn’t give our friends and fellow believers any way to hold us accountable or follow up on our needs and emotional struggles. If it must be “unspoken” in a broader group context, we should find someone we know and trust, and keep it private.
Can I be frank? I just don’t get what “love on” means. Is there something different between loving someone and loving on someone? It’s weird and sounds, due to the preposition, explicitly physical, that we love on someone by hugging, laying hands while praying, spending excess time, and it smacks as clingy and hounding. But more than that, it’s just not a meaningful or biblical phrase.
The worst part is this phrasing almost always appears in the context of youth ministry (trust me, as a volunteer youth leader and teacher, I know), and as a former teenager myself, it just smacks of falsehood; it lacks the authenticity youth desire. We don’t need you to be cool or use good and encouraging phrasing. We need the truth, we need your honesty, and we need you to stop trying too hard. Don’t love “on” someone. Just love them.
“Are You Saved?”
Okay, confession: I grew up Lutheran. We’re evangelical, but we’re not exactly known for being highly proselytizing (for better and worse). But let’s reflect on this question for a minute: saved from what? And in a largely post-Christian culture, does bar counter evangelism really come off that well?
Sharing the faith happens by how we live out in the world but not of it, speaking the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection when and where needed. It isn’t determined by a question (or the answer thereto). We all need to hear that we are forgiven – the Gospel doesn’t stop when you’re baptized.SKM: below-content placeholder