Tuesday, May 20, 2014

May 2014

Smoky Mountain Reflections
May 2014
            Words and phrases can mean different things in different contexts to different people. We should be very careful to know what our words mean before we say them.  I cannot change the meaning of a word/s to suit my own needs and desires. I will acknowledge that word usage and meanings can and do change over time, but sadly, some words are used today that mean one thing for one group and a different thing for another. We as Christians should be careful how we use words. Let's look at some words and see how they are commonly misused, and how we might communicate more clearly by saying what we really mean.

            Let's start with the word “tolerance”. According to Dictionary.com, this word has many definitions, but let's exclude its medical and technical definitions, and focus on the second of the three general definitions, which is "a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own."   We do not need to pick this definition apart; let's just say one can be civil toward those whose opinions and practices are different than their own. This does not say that you must agree, just that you have a kind permissive attitude toward them. As
conservative biblical Christians these days, we find a strong double standard applied to us when it comes to the word “tolerance”. We are called intolerant and judgmental of others when we stand with the clear teaching of God's word on the definition of family and the sanctity of human life. At the same time those who accuse us of being intolerant are at the very same time being very intolerant of us and our consciences with regard to the authority of God's word. Now some of this is because some Christians try to judge others and tell them how they should act or what they should do. But that is not our call as Christians. We are to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have in our hearts; this means that I, as a forgiven sinner, want others to know how great it is to be forgiven, so I stand ready to tell others that Christ died for our sins, and in order to understand what sins are, we must accept God’s definitions and not make up our own. So if you find yourself being called an intolerant bigot, thank the person who says that to you, letting them know how much you appreciate their tolerance of your convictions.

            There are also common words and phrases that Christians use that should be used with caution. You have probably heard me say before "I am too blessed to be depressed". This is a catchy phrase, but it carries, I think, a dangerous assumption that only happy, well-to-do people, are blessed. This is of course not what is meant, but
consider the next time you are sharing your struggles, pains, or anxieties in life, that this is also a time to acknowledge that you are blessed because God's blessings upon us are constant. He is always there caring for us and working for our good even if we are ignorant of it during times of suffering. 

            Another dangerous phrase is "It’s a God thing" not because something is not “a God thing” (because He is in control of everything, so everything is a God thing). Unfortunately, we often use this not to acknowledge that God is in control (and it amazes us how He works through the things in our life to both discipline and care for us), but it is used to recognize things that we feel are good. This again implies that the bad things that we don’t like are not “God things”, but He is working there as well.    

            "God placed it on my heart" is a phrase that implies special divine revelation, when we know God reveals Himself through His word.  When we have an idea or make a decision it is possible, if not probable, that God uses our environment, friends, family, and our prayer to help us come to a God pleasing idea or decision, but to say "God placed it on my heart" implies divine authority behind the words we speak, and unless we are proclaiming biblical truth, what we say is our opinion, not God's Word.   

            There is one phrase, however, that I think we as Lutherans should never use, because I feel it is based on a theology that is not biblical. "Come to Jesus". We as Christians do not “come” to faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit plants faith in our hearts at our Baptism or when God’s word is preached and we hear and believe. Either way we are not coming to faith, faith is coming to us.
Ok, enough rambling with words about words. Have a "blessed" (no matter how good or bad it is) :-) Spring.
In Christ,

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