Pasting Cliche’ Bandaids Over Mortal Wounds

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cli·ché

noun    1. A trite, stereotyped expression, a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse.[1]

Dan Merchant as Bumper Sticker Man in his 2008 documentary, “Lord Save Us From Your Followers.” I highly recommend this film–it is especially helpful for recovering Pharisees.

One of the biggest life changes I experienced when I began breaking free from Pharisasim was a dramatic switch in my worldview. I suddenly saw that a lot of the churchy things I had been spouting off were nothing more than meaningless cliches’. I was addicted to speaking irrelevant Christianese–a hybrid language comprised of cheesy slogans, bumper sticker sentiments, out-of-context bible verses, and exclusive club jargon.

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By thinking that proclaiming these things was a wise “witnessing tool,” I became a fool. It was actually just another manifestation of the symptom of externalism. It kept me in a constant instructional mindset–a state where, because I assumed that I was the one with the correct viewpoint, people would pause and consider my silly one-liners. It made me like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9 who, seeing himself as the pinnacle of awesomeness, looked down on everybody else.

My Christianese was basically the equivalent of that Pharisee’s prayer.

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I said the following lines so many times in so many ways that they began to sound as fresh and new as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” or “Row, Row, Row Your boat:”

-Everything  happens for a reason

-God is in control

-It isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship

-There’s a God-shaped hole in your heart

-Hate the sin, but love the sinner.

What in the world made me think these trite phrases could make a difference in someone’s life??

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I’ve even learned that I have to be careful with how, or when, or even if I should tell someone God loves them. I mean, think about it–what if a person with Mormon convictions announced to you that “Joseph Smith loves you?” Is that all it would take to get you to consider becoming a Mormon?

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It wouldn’t have been so bad if  my Christianese just resulted in mere stupidity or even silliness. It was the fact that speaking or displaying those slogans was downright disrespectful.  I ignored my unbelieving friends’ intelligence, adulthood and God-given freedom to hold their own opinions. I treated them like children.

Worse yet, I failed to see how horribly injured by sin we all are. Thinking that sin is just comprised of naughty external acts that I would never commit, I figured it was my job to slap my cliche bandaids on others’ obvious scrapes. Wally, my inner Pharisee, did his best to keep me from understanding how deep-rooted human sin nature is–mine and everybody else’s–and caused me to not take others’ hurt souls seriously.

I disrespected people by preaching at them. I devalued them and my faith by misusing phrases that didn’t even mean what I thought they did. I used bandaids for internal bleeding.

Fellow blogger A. Dumois (www.adumois.wordpress.com) in his post, “The Image of God at Wal Mart,” makes an astute diagnosis of our situation:

“…As I walk around the shopping mall or big box discount store, I see people who are spiritually dead.  I see the Image of God parading through the store encrusted by sin and I am heartbroken.  I see broken bodies, dehydrated spirits, damaged people lost to the possibilities of a renewed life with God…”

Mr. Dumois shows respect for the pain of our human condition. But he doesn’t tell us to wear another loud T-shirt, or plaster another sticker on our bumper, or set up another letter board outside our church building. He says instead,

“I see this and I pray silently, ‘Oh Lord, won’t you come and restore the glory of your Image in all people.  How long, Oh Lord, how long will you wait?’  And I wish I could do more.  I understand that each person I see should be, must be, treated with dignity and respect as God’s image-bearer no matter how defaced the Image has become, but also that every one of those people needs Christ.”

I agree, but want to take it even further by adding that “every one of those people” includes me.

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I have a feeling the Apostle Paul wouldn’t have been too eager to slap a bumper sticker on the back of his donkey. In 1 Corinthians 5:12, he says, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”

And Peter said it like this: “For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household.”

His household.

The members of His home.

The ones inside the church.

The one inside the church.

…Me.

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[1] Dictionary.com, LLC. Copyright © 2012.

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