A Shiny Veneer

Tom Newby on Flickr

Tom Newby on Flickr

I’ve heard many say how much they hate Christian clichés.  Some have said that they hate popular Christian books, Christian music, Christian movies, “Christian” anything—because they’re all cliché, shallow, and fake.  I will admit—there have been plenty of moments when I would agree. 

Other people (both Christian and non-Christian) cringe at Christian clichés said out loud in response to the suffering and challenges of life.  You know what I mean—those lines we can pull out so easily that seem to be the “Christian thing to say.”  The lines we use when we feel awkward and don’t know what to say and want to close the conversation.  The lines that ultimately serve to keep us distanced from the pain that others experience as they push forward a perfect plastic happiness—instead of listening to the hurt, sitting through the tears, hearing the echoes of doubt.

At the heart of most clichés is a seed of truth.  That is something we must remember.  But what may have once been meaningful sentiments are now used as a shield to not think too much, not feel too much, not taste too much—of anything “out there.”

God answers prayers./You just need to pray more.  Yes, God does answer prayers, and He hears them even when we can’t express them in words.  But sometimes the answer is no.  Sometimes the answer comes in the form and timing we least expect (or desire). The fact that God answers prayers does not mean He will say yes to your own desires and plans.  

The Lord doesn’t give you more than you can handle.  False. God will in fact give you more than YOU can handle.  The truth is that God will not give you more than you can handle in his strength.  Some may say I’m mincing words.  I say this is absolutely crucial.  The moment we start to comfort people with the idea that they have all the strength and ability to cope with life on their own, we have lost something inherent about the Gospel message.  The point is that in our deepest weaknesses, we are made strong by undeserved grace.  The point is that the sooner we can accept (and embrace) the reality that there is so much we can’t handle on our own, and we look to his sufficient grace and strength for our aid, the better.

God has a plan./Trust in God’s will./Everything happens for a reason.  Yes God does have a plan.  Let us remember that His will, His plan, His reasons had God-in-flesh trembling alone in the middle of the night in a garden, so anxious he was sweating drops of blood.  Let us remember that we cannot excuse injustice, acute suffering, and tragedy as simply “part of God’s plan.” If Jesus would have wept at it, if Jesus would have been outraged at it—so should we.

I could go on, perhaps for longer than you would care to read.  But this brings me to the ultimate point:  Our little clichés become clichés when we take Christ out of them.  The moment Jesus Christ—the God-man, the suffering servant, the healer of the sick, the one who wept at the grave of Lazarus, the one who was not put off by pain, sickness, or sin, the one who became low and nothing to raise us up—the moment He slips from the center of our Christian talk or action, it becomes empty, shallow, meaningless.  He is the center.  He is why we have hope or joy or comfort—even in the midst of life’s darkest moments.  If we don’t have him, we have nothing of any real value to offer the world.  Just words with a shiny veneer of happiness—clichés.