8 Sayings Christians Use to Let Ourselves Off the Hook

Sojourners: 8 Sayings Christians Use to Let Ourselves Off the Hook

We’ve mastered Christian-ese catch phrases to get us off the hook from ever really having to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Before I go on, please allow me to climb off my high horse and admit that I know all of these phrases by heart because I have disingenuously used them all myself. They’ve rolled off my tongue with ease and a sense of identity. But the more I listen to those who have suffered, the more I realize how much I’ve manipulated Scripture to stay comfortable.

These sayings are not bad or untrue at face value, and sometimes they are said with sincerity. But American Christians also use them as an escape hatch to turn our backs on suffering. We proclaim what we believe as rock-solid theology, while ignoring those who are at the heart and soul of Jesus’ ministry.

  1. “I’ll pray for you.”
  2. “I love everybody.”
  3. “Let’s keep the peace.”
  4. “God is sovereign.”
  5. “Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.'”
  6. “God works in mysterious ways.”
  7. “Mercy is not my gift.”
  8. “The Bible says we should submit to authority.”
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You Keep Using That Verse

The Morning Drive: You Keep Using that Verse, But . . .

Every where I go, I hear Christians and Bible-minded people quoting passages of scripture or I see certain passages on signs, bumper stickers, or on personalized car plates (tags). At first glance these passages seem to be encouraging or seem to be full of promise. Yet, often, after a deeper look at the context of the passage, they do not say what the sign, sticker, or tag implies. I have selected three of the more popular of these scriptures from the Old Covenant to share and explore.

There’s a New Testament follow-up as well:

You Keep Using That Verse, Too . . .

Water to Wine

Water to Wine Gathering

Brian Zahnd and the Word of Life Church are putting together a conference that sounds quite interesting.

Water To Wine is a gathering for those who sense the falseness prevailing in Americanized Christianity and yearn for something better. It’s a gathering for those who want to see the church rescued from fundamentalism, consumerism, and nationalism. It’s a gathering for those asking Jesus to transform their spiritual life from water to wine!

Over three days we’ll talk about theology. We’ll talk about church life and ministry. We’ll talk about the menace of American civil religion. We’ll share stories about leading a church beyond “cotton-candy Christianity.” But most of all we’ll talk about Jesus and the church he is building as an authentic expression of the kingdom of God.

This gathering will be in forum where you can ask any question. Everything is up for discussion. We will learn from one another and perhaps you can make some new friends. Some of the content will have pastors and Christian leaders in mind, but everyone is invited!

Opening Our Homes

Desiring God: Would You Let a Stranger Live with You?

Just the other night, my husband and I were talking to our kids about a difficult hospitality decision that would affect all of us. We reminded them that we have to start with the question, “Is this something that God is calling us as a family to do?” Because if the answer is yes, it doesn’t really matter if we initially feel like doing it or not.

Some would say we are asking our kids to give up more than they should — that we are supposed to put their needs above everyone else’s. I know how deep the desire can be to cater to our children and to cringe at the thought of their discomfort. I have had to fight against the temptation to protect them from suffering. True hospitality often requires sacrifice, inconvenience, and surrender. And God does not require less from them. I am witness that you can prayerfully make decisions with wisdom, while still moving forward in faith.

Jesus’s words in Luke 6:33–36 have always struck me:

“If you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

As with everything in our lives, we have the opportunity to use our homes in a way that doesn’t make sense to the world. If all the good you do in your home is for your friends and family, how is that different from every other person on your street? There’s no benefit — to you or to your children, but also to a world that desperately needs to see us doing things differently.

This whole piece is immensely humbling.

etching of Paul in prison studying with the slave Onesimus

Onesimus and Perfection

The letter to Philemon is one of the most fascinating books in the New Testament. It’s among the shortest books in the Bible, but it’s incredibly dense in terms of practical applications. It’s also a book that stirs my curiosity; there’s so much unspoken backstory that I really want to understand.  But there’s only one thing I want to focus on right now: Onesimus’s legal status when he was baptized.

Onesimus, Paul, and Roman Law

Onesimus didn’t just break household rules when he fled Philemon’s household. He broke the law. The Roman government was paranoid about the possibility of a slave rebellion, so laws regarding slaves were harsh. Not only was it illegal for a slave to travel any distance without permission from their master, but it was also illegal for slaves to gather in groups, and it was illegal to harbor an escaped slave. A Roman’s civic duty was to immediately turn in any slaves suspected of escape.

It was illegal for Onesimus to be with Paul. That’s important to understand when thinking about the implications of his conversion since it’s obvious that Onesimus was baptized by Paul before he reconciled with Philemon. Verse 10 says, “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.” So what does this mean for us when we come to Christ for salvation?

Baptism, Repentance, and Perfection

We often break salvation down into tidy steps: hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. I don’t think it’s wrong to put repentance before baptism, but I think we need to consider what repentance really means. We often associate repentance with being sinless; nothing could be farther from the truth. Repentance is a process; it doesn’t mean that we have fixed everything. If it did, we could never repent enough before baptism.

Onesimus had not yet fixed his legal status or his relationship with Philemon when Paul baptized him. He was still a fugitive. He was yet to completely correct these sins in his life when baptized, but Paul did not let that stand in the way of salvation. Onesimus was not perfect when baptized, but he did have this: he had repented. He had a plan to set things right.

When you or I come to Christ, we don’t have to have our lives in perfect order. All we need is a heart ready to make things right. We need to repent — meaning we recognize the error in our lives and are willing to change. Onesimus would return to Philemon; with Paul’s support, he would fix his standing with his owner and with the law. But that repentance was a process for him, and it’s a process for us.

If some standard of perfection is holding you back from baptism in Christ, I would invite you to go forward with it despite any shortcomings. Christ wants you to come to Him broken, in need of His grace, and willing to start anew. Baptism is the beginning of your journey, not the end. Wherever you are, take that first step, knowing that Christ will forgive you in your imperfections and that your new family in Christ is there to help you on your journey.