Sojourners magazine recently published several articles by Christian Piatt, in which he listed a few choice cliches which Christians should excise from their conversation about faith. His list was filled with the kind of questions and statements that would make most of us here at First Church rather uneasy. Statements like “Everything happens for a reason”, or “The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it”, or “God helps those who help themselves”. And questions like “If you died today, do you know where you’d spend the rest of eternity?”
Piatt takes each one of these cliches and points out their flaws – especially if we are hoping to make friends and influence people who are not yet a part of the faith community. And while most of his cliches are not likely to be heard around here, it might behoove us to consider a few of his “antidotes to Christian cliches”.
Even those of us who consider ourselves “progressive” in our theology can fall into the temptation to unconsciously recite a cliche from time to time. In those moments we would do well to follow Piatt’s advice:
- Listen more and talk less. This is probably the greatest single piece of advice anyone could give when it comes to sharing our faith – whether with the person sitting next to us in the pew every Sunday or the stranger at the bus stop.
- Stop trying to fix everything. Questions are meant for asking, and not every question has to find an answer.
- See yourself in the Other. Don’t underestimate the importance of seeing people and loving people just as they are..
- Pray. Pretty obvious, but we often forget to engage the Divine in these conversations about faith.
- Quality over quantity. There is no substitute for personal engagement and personal investment in relationships with others.
- Share your own story. Make it personal because that is what makes it real.
- Be open to the possibility that you are wrong. Allow yourself to be moved and even to be changed by others’ experiences, or viewpoints on faith.
- Apologize. There are many people who have turned away from Christianity because of thoughtless cliches and hurtful stances. Even if you’ve never uttered one yourself, be big enough to grieve the hurt and apologize.
- Own your love. If we are Jesus’ body in the world – we love the world!
- Make a life that reflects your faith. This is the ultimate goal of Christian community – helping each other to grow into the kind of spiritual maturity where what we believe is consistently reflected in what we do.
If you’d like to read more about Piatt’s cliches to avoid, check it out at http://sojo.net