“What goes up must come down.” “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” These sayings and many, many more are so familiar that they’ve begun to lose their meaning. And unfortunately, plenty of Christian cliche phrases have the same problem.
Familiar Christian Sayings
None of these sayings are necessarily wrong, and most can be beneficial in the right circumstances. However, improper usage or over-usage has caused these phrases to lose their original meaning. Quoting them may not yield the results you’re hoping for. Common Christian cliches to avoid include:
- When God closes a door, He opens a window
- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me
- I’ll pray about it/If I feel led/If it’s God’s will
- Washed in the blood
- Love the sinner, hate the sin
- Everything happens for a reason
- God won’t give you more than you can handle
1) When God Closes a Door, He Opens a Window
The simple truth is that sometimes God closes a door and nothing else opens. Sometimes, we’re supposed to stay where we are and thus no “window” of another opportunity will appear. This saying can even cause pain to someone who truly has no other opportunity to pursue since it implies that the chance is there, they just can’t find it. Instead of reciting this saying, offer to help the person find any opportunity that God may have provided. Don’t provide a baseless promise that such an opportunity always exists.
2) I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me
This saying may be a Bible verse, but far too often, it’s quoted out of context. In the immediately preceding verses, Paul is discussing how he’s learned to be content in any circumstance and to live on what God has provided for him. This verse is simply giving God credit for teaching Paul how to be content. This is a far cry from the typical “power ballad” treatment this verse gets in many Christian circles. This verse tells us to be humble, not to expect God to help us do whatever we want.
3) I’ll Pray About It/If I Feel Led/If It’s God’s Will
These spiritual-sounding phrases are often the Christian version of saying “maybe” to someone’s request when you mean “no”. Rather than couching a refusal in Christian terms, learn to recognize God’s will in your everyday life and take opportunities to help others when you can. We’re called to take responsibility for our actions and decisions–don’t pawn the responsibility off on God.
4) Washed in the Blood
This phrase carries a world of meaning for Christians familiar with the Bible. For anyone who doesn’t know the Bible, however, this phrase sounds bizarre and kind of scary. Who wants to be covered in blood? Why would we celebrate that?
Instead of emphasizing more symbolic language when talking with unbelievers, talk about what actually happened and what it means for us. Poetic descriptions have their place. However, that place is rarely in simple witnessing as it’s likely to simply confuse the listener.
5) Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
To quote a relevant tweet, “ ‘That philosophy is 25% love, and 75% hate, sinner, sin, and we can’t figure out why it hasn’t worked???’ ” As well-intentioned as this saying is, it still encourages a perspective that focuses on a person’s sin rather than who they are and God’s love for them. You certainly should never condone someone else’s sin. However, their shortcomings should not be the primary defining trait of your relationship with them. Build relationships with them like Jesus did and show them God’s love.
Pro Tip: Jesus came to bring salvation, but He also came to love people and heal them. Providing for people’s needs can lead to opportunities to tell them about Jesus’ love for them.
6) Everything Happens for a Reason
Variants may include “God works in mysterious ways”. This sentiment can only cause further suffering to anyone in the midst of difficult circumstances since it makes God the cause of their trouble. Both of these sayings likely come from a misunderstanding of Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” This verse doesn’t say that God specifically ordains every single thing, no matter how horrible it may be. It simply promises that God can bring about something good in spite of all the terrible things that happen, whether it’s a huge event like a natural disaster or something smaller like an individual battling depression.
7) God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle
The verse this saying is derived from refers to temptations, not to general trials in life. And even a cursory reading of Psalms or the epistles shows that very godly people regularly experienced far, far more than they could handle and cried out to God for help. We weren’t promised troubles we could handle–we were promised help through the troubles.
This saying can also be a form of victim-blaming. First of all, it implies that whatever bad things the person is currently experiencing did actually come from God. Second, it implies that the person can in fact handle the circumstances on their own and just need to shape up. A far more helpful concept to remember is that everyone faces trials, but through it all, God is there to help us.
Improving Our Christian Vocabulary
The best way to reach the world or minister to our fellow believers is by meeting them where they are and showing the love of Christ, not by quoting overused Christian cliches that are so far removed from their roots they no longer mean anything. The more prepared we are to offer genuine help to those who need it, the more we can be the hands and feet of Jesus.
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