We as Christians have built up a collection of pet phrases and familiar jargon. Some of this Christianspeak is okay. Some of these Christian phrases, however, either lack meaning or have questionable meaning. Here are a few Christian phrases to use with caution.
“Hate the sin. Love the sinner.”
Often, this phrase an excuse to hate the sinner, too. The Bible commands us to love our neighbor, which, quite expansively, includes everyone. The problem, of course, is that we’re supposed to hate sin. How do we handle sinners, then — people who we’re supposed to love but are actively sinning. The line between hating sin and loving sinners becomes blurred to an ambiguous point where the sinner gets a little bit of the hate, too. If and when you use this phrase, take some time to emphasize loving the sinner, because all too often, it seems to be neglected.
“God helps those who help themselves.”
This phrase so oblique that it’s actual meaning is obscured. What does this mean? When examined, it makes little sense theologically. If God helping me is dependent upon me helping myself, then whatever happened to grace…and salvation for that matter? Whatever happened to sovereignty? What ever happened to God — this Deity whose blessings I can somehow control with my own self-help? By all means, encourage people to work hard and take care of themselves and their families, but choose a different and more accurate phrase to encapsulate your exhortations.
“I’m praying for you.”
“I’m praying for you,” has, sadly, become one of the most-repeated lies that Christians tell each other. Are you truly praying for the person to whom you just spoke those words? Unfortunately, “I’m praying for you” is sort of like saying “Well, see ya later!” It’s more of a Christian “goodbye” than a heartfelt pledge to pray for the other individual. By all means, continue using this phrase, and by all means, follow up with genuine heartfelt prayer for that other person.
“Just pray the prayer.”
Explaining salvation in simple terms is appropriate. Paring it down to “just pray the prayer,” however, is risky. Pray what prayer? Pray to whom? Salvation is by grace, not by means of a formulaic prayer. The Bible does not tell us of a single prayer that automatically ushers in salvation. When we depend upon a prayer for salvation, we are clinging to a false hope. Pray, yes, but pray to God in sincerity and humility.
“God is judging you.”
It is true that God is a judge, and that he judges other people. Be that as it may, it is not up to us to determine how he’s doing it, and who is receiving such judgment. An individual’s illness, injury, or unpleasant circumstances may or may not be divine judgment. You are advised not to tell someone, “God is judging you.” Frankly, you just don’t know.
“God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”
The fact that God sait it settles it. Your believing it has nothing to do with it being settled or unsettled. This three-sentence declaration sounds bold and audacious, but it smacks of too much self-confidence. If our own belief system is the arbiter of all disputes, no wonder we’ve become odious for our arrogance. If you choose to say this, move the middle sentence to the end. “God said it. That settles it. I believe it.” There, that’s more accurate.
There are other Christian pet phrases that should probably be culled from our repertoire. What we say matters. Our words have meaning. In a day of bumper sticker reductionism, we should take care that the meaning and content of our words is accurate and God-honoring.