The other day I was traveling behind someone whose brake lights were on the entire time I was behind them… even uphill. You might know what that means. That means that they have decided that the proper way to operate a motor vehicle with an automatic transmission is to have one foot on the break and one on the gas at all times, so you can approach the operation of the automobile as if it had a manual transmission, where you often have one foot on the clutch and one on the gas.
No doubt this person thinks that this is a sound way to operate a motor vehicle. But based on what? Any conversation with a mechanic will likely result in that mechanic’s eyes going wide with disbelief, saying “Good LORD! Don’t DO that. You’ll RUIN your car!” But they never asked. They made an assumption that resulted in a habit that is likely to eventually result in some incredibly costly (and ultimately unnecessary) car repair bills.
We approach faith the same way. We take a scripture out of context or we make assumptions based on comforting words that we’ve heard from others (who mis-interpreted a scripture or took it out of context) and perpetuate what might end up being really dangerous behavior.
I heard a song on Christian radio this morning (which I occasionally listen to) and in the course of the song, the singer (who is singing to an un-named young person facing identity challenges) makes a promise to the “object” of his song along the lines of “everything will work out for you.”
I turned off the radio and shouted, “That is a LIE!”
Because what if it doesn’t? What if that person ends up in a horrible life because of bad choices they make and everything doesn’t work out for them. It happens to people all the time. You know some of them. So do I. You might be one of them. Sometimes I am pretty sure I am.
You know what they call it when you make a promise like that, that doesn’t really come true…
It’s a little like the line that we always give at the funeral. “Everything happens for a reason.” Really? Is that what the Bible says? Or does it say that God will MAKE everything (even the bad stuff) work out for good for those who love Him? They are not the same thing. We shouldn’t say that they are.
It’s a little like our attitude (sometimes) towards the posts on facebook that end up being scams. The incredible photo of some severe weather that is a Photoshop-generated hoax. The story about Tom’s shoes giving away free shoes. The story about AOL and Microsoft giving trying to give everybody ten thousand dollars. (I try real hard to be super-selective in which ones of those I address, and which I do not… Mostly, I just ignore them…)
When we get those things wrong, it’s not a big deal. But when we insert our own ideas about Scripture into God’s thinking… is that really what we want to do? Continue living with a shallow and incorrect understanding of how God actually operates in creation?
Not too long ago I heard a portion of a sermon by a really well-known very young pastor of a very new and quickly expanding church that is a current “key influencer” in the Christian community. He took a portion of Scripture that talked about God’s sovereignty and turned it into a lesson about our own personal victories. Really? I found myself praying that he had someone in his church or on his staff that could tell him, “Dude, that was off…” (I am omitting details, because I’m still a fan of people who don’t get everything right all the time… like me…)
In the Bible’s book of Job, Job’s friends thought they understood how God worked, and thought they spoke truth into Job’s words. If you read their speeches, they make COMPELLING arguments against Job. God basically answers “Who do you think you are?” Job ends up having to pray that God won’t annihilate them.
It’s probably better to say nothing than to say something that isn’t true. Lord, I pray that I can take that to heart.