When I hear the predictable pulpit cry of “put your faith in Jesus as Lord,” I don’t respond well.
When I hear someone announce, “the only way to God is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ,” I cringe from the inside out.
Finally, when someone demands “do you know Jesus as your Lord and your Savior?” I worry that this question will intimidate even the most sincere seeker.
Why do these Christian cliches bug me?
Because, I am a Christian.
And, as a Christian, I am deeply concerned we will lose our children — our future generations — if we continue to lean on cliches to explain our faith.
Well-worn words or cliches, no matter how worthy, have evolved into a language called “Christianese,” an insider’s code that drives non-Christians away.
Allow me to explain…
I grew up in a family composed of intellectuals and academics — virtually none of them card-carrying Christians. They are brilliant people, who follow moral principles and help their fellow man. They just don’t believe Jesus is their “Lord and Savior” and they certainly don’t believe He provides the only way to God. I am fairly confident that I cannot convince them to believe that Jesus is their “Savior” by using that language.*
Even though I personally “believe in Jesus,” I didn’t get there with those words. When I went through a severe postpartum depression at age 35, I personally needed more than a cliche to find God.
The words and thoughts that impacted me went something like this:
I have witnessed a hurting world. A world full of drug addicts and sex trafficking, brutal slavery and human torture, violent wars and deceptive politicians, starving babies and cancer-stricken kids, greedy businessmen and corrupt bankers, broken families and abandoned children.
Some people use these horrors as an excuse to say, “there is no God because He wouldn’t allow this,” or “if God allowed this, then He cannot be a good God.”
When I see these horrors, I come to a different conclusion. I know we need help. I know I need help.
So, this is how I view Jesus in light of our desperate need for help. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that a good God created a good world and gave us freedom to choose how we wanted to live in it. Let’s look around and agree that we have chosen poorly. And, we continue to choose poorly.
I am not swayed by people who defend their personal choices by arguing, “but, I’m a good person because I don’t steal or commit murder,” or “I give to charity and volunteer to help those in need.” I am not swayed because I know that, like me, those people still gossip in ways that would devastate the one being gossiped about. Those people still refuse to forgive family members or friends who have hurt them. Those people still judge others for what they wear or how they vote or how much they weigh. In fact, we all commit regular atrocities when it comes to the judgment, hate, rejection, bitterness and deception that we allow to float through our hearts and minds.
So, what is a good God to do? I believe He has to address the horror by entering into it. I believe He has to suffer through our bad choices with us. I believe He has to submit to the one horror that exposes this world at its worst. And that means… He has to lose a child.
Now, this is where I pause… to address those who don’t believe what they’ve heard about the man called Jesus. This is where I ask those folks to step away from the cliches and predictable words that have made their eyes glaze over and their feet walk away from a Jesus made smaller through humdrum familiarity.
I beg these people — parents and children alike — to take a fresh look and ask themselves this: what if there really is an infinitely good Creator who decided to create a human that He identified as “my son whom I love?” Interestingly, this parental love would make Him a lot like us. I guess that might mean we are made in His image.
But, if you want this Creator to be fully “good,” then He must not endorse or accept anything that is bad. He must do away with all of the bad choices that have led to the horrors that cause people to reject the idea of a “good Creator.” If all the bad must die so that good can live… what else can the Creator do, but kill the bad?
Ahh, but instead of killing it and all of us who have participated in it, He makes the choice to sacrifice a part of Himself to death. christian cliches
NONE of us would want to do this for the sake of gossips and rapists and killers and liars. But, God did. That is the unfathomable love of this good God, an infinite and sacrificing love that is more than we can fully comprehend. But, that love is there for us, comprehended or not. It is not too good to be true. Rather, it is good and true.
And, that’s how I see Jesus. No cliches or catches. I simply see Him as the one who saves me.
A final personal note: one day, in the midst of a severe postpartum depression, I was overwhelmed with the darkness and despair I was feeling. I wanted to overcome the depression and love my baby well. So, I fell on the floor and cried out, “Jesus, will you please save me?” And, He did.christian cliches
The scripture I refer to above is from Matthew 3:17, “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Challenge: Can you share your faith with your children in a new way, perhaps, a way that helps your children share with others who don’t believe in the Jesus they’ve heard about in cliches?
*Author’s note: I am aware that scripture refers to Christ as “Lord” and as “Savior,” so I don’t diminish the importance or veracity of those scriptural truths. I contend that the scripture which asks us to “preach the gospel to all creation” is equally important and that we must do so in a way that is “relatable” and effective. christian cliches
By Jenny Dean Schmidt
Wife of Mike
Mother of two teenagers, Otis and Georgia
1 Corinthians 13 Team Member
Executive Director, ChannelMom Media & Outreach and Host of ChannelMom Radio on 94.7 KRKS FM in Denver and also at channelmom.com.