Friends, believers, fellow Christ-followers I am begging you today. Please shut your mouth. I know that sounds harsh, but I mean it in the most loving manner possible. Loving, like when I tell my 3-year-old that YES he can watch Bubble Guppies if only he’ll stop asking over and over and over again.
Maybe it’s because I have a unique perspective and access to a population of people who are deeply hurt, but I can’t help but see all the well-meaning, yet grossly misguided, comments that christians tend to make to non-believers and those struggling with faith. I LOVE the fact that most of us truly love our fellow man and desire nothing more than to see them lifted up by God’s promises of hope. Promises He made for each and every one of us. You are bursting at the seams to share the gospel and it’s A-MAZ-ING (in my best Oprah voice), yet all the love is falling on deaf ears. Read the room, folks. And in case you’re unfamiliar with that saying, here:
Verb. read the room (third-person singular simple present reads the room, present participle reading the room, simple past and past participle read the room) (idiomatic) to understand the emotions and thoughts of the people in the room
You see, we’re such eager beavers to comfort others with a pat on the back and a bible verse that we’re not even hearing what’s being said. Sometimes all that’s required is to just be quiet and let the other person speak. If you’re only focused on the response, then you are completely missing what is really being said. And what’s being said is “I’m hurt, I’m angry, I’m lonely, I’m sad, I’m lost” even if those words are never uttered. Instead of jumping in with a platitude or “advice”, let’s be quick to say “I’m sorry you’re struggling today”. Let’s you and I pray for our brother or sister silently, asking for His comfort over them. Acknowledge that only God knows the depth of the emotions and the true cause for their despair. He is the only one that can heal. Our job is to be a friend and a listening ear.
God’s call to us is to “Put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another” [Colossians 3:12]
I blame most of this on social media. The ability to post vague sentences and attention seeking comments is the devil’s playground. We assume we know best and our one-liners of faith are all this person needs to hear. What they hear is that you don’t hear them at all, and that you and your God can’t possibly understand their situation. Obviously, the God part couldn’t be further from the truth, but they’ve got us pegged.
Let me give a real life example. I have the unfortunate experience to know hundreds of parents who have lost their children to cancer. We have an online community for support because, truly, other people cannot even begin to understand the how we feel. Daily I see posts from other parents where they share their “ugh!” moments from comments made on their Facebook status updates. If I had a nickel for every time someone said “they’re in a better place now”, I’d be writing you this while sitting in a lounge chair in the Bahamas. Yes, you and I know that their child is in a better place and free from pain and suffering, but these people DON’T know that. Or they’re not sure if they believe that because they’re still searching. These are the people that need to see examples of faith walked out through us, not a quote or verse. Maybe it’s because we get our feelings all in a pinch when someone dares to challenge us in what we believe. Instead of responding in kindness and love, we lash out with hate to cover up their hate. If we’re their example of Christ’s love, I wouldn’t say we’re doing a bang-up job.
This is where we stumble. We’re great at talking the talk, but walking the walk takes work. It means taking the other person’s hand and making a connection. It’s more than a scroll through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It’s more than sending a sad emoji face. You know who is actually really good at this? Non-believers. I can only assume it’s because they’ve had to rely on their own strength and the strength of others for so long. Part of me also knows that it’s all part of Satan’s plan. To make them believe that the christians aren’t “their people” because everything we say is read with a tinge of condescension (whether imagined or real).
Friends, our actions will always speak volumes over our words. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will quiet our mouths and open our ears. At that point we’ll hear the prompting of the Spirit and be moved to help in a way that is specific to each person’s heart and needs.
1 John 3:18 Let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth