During the summer, an exercise was begun in our family to help us grow beyond particular character or behavior deficiencies. With the exception of the our littlest one (18 months old, the one I call Boo-Boo) who has little command over the English language and thus was unable to delineate her flaws, each of us selected one habit or pattern we would like to grow past and/or see eliminated. There was an agreed upon consequence for all. Judgment or critique was not the purpose of this, but rather to identify unhelpful or distracting idiosyncrasies.
Here was mine: I have a propensity for answering questions indefinitely. Rather than providing a direct answer, I can be tempted towards providing a flowery non-answer. I’m not sure when or where I picked up this annoying trait, though the how and why (fear of man) is easy to discern. Responses such as “we’ll see” or “maybe” or everyone’s least favorite “let me think about that” (which usually translates to “I’m going to give you a response now to satisfy my end of the conversation, but as soon as one of us walks away I’m going to forget to think about it, meaning you will have to come back to me, ask the same question again, and very likely hear the exact same lame answer.”)
I’ve learned the hard way that those in my life prefer hearing the straight answer, even if it means no, rather than the nebulous non-answer. No one likes an undefined, unclear answer. No one I know has ever looked forward to hearing “maybe” about anything. We like clarity. Or at least we say we do. I’m offering that up because many of us have in our vernacular ways of describing things that mean, well, nothing – at least not biblically. We toss around terms and concepts, we adopt them as truth, yet they are void of anything that looks like what Scripture calls it. One of my least favorite terms (and one that I have banned from my lips) is stress. I wrote about that here, so feel free to cruise on over and consider my treatise against the word stress.
My concern is that we use words and categories that are not expressed in Scripture. Then when we go to the Bible to find answers to whatever the presenting issue is, we’re flummoxed because we can’t the word or category we’re looking for. It seems addictions have been created for just about everything: drug addict, sex addict, gaming addict, food addict, sports addict, fill in the blank addict…yet the Bible says nothing about addicts or addiction. It says quite a bit about sin, temptation, self control (or lack of it), idolatry, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh. The addict will find help from the Scriptures when they choose to identify in biblical categories what they are really dealing with. That is, they have to call it what it is. Pastors, elders, counselors, followers of Christ must help them call it what it is. The addict’s problem is not that he is an addict; his problem is that he is an idolater. If we adhere to the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture (and I’m convinced we should) the way we help the individual is to expose the idolatry in his heart, and show how Christ came to remove that idolatry. When we call it what it is, we are modeling Christ. Look at Mark 7:20-23 . Are these the words we use? Are these the categories we are using? If not, we are limited in our ability to help people who are facing those very things. But, if we are thinking and speaking this way, if we will call it what is, we can provide hope for the individual. The hope is found in Christ who knows and understands these categories, and graciously offered Himself to rescue those who are in slavery to them. Calling it what it is may hurt initially, but Christ can and does soothe all things.