I love to shop. I love pushing carts and carrying bags, no matter if I am shopping for shoes or groceries. I especially love it when my mom takes all five of my sisters and me on an all-day shopping adventure for our annual Girls’ Day celebration. We usually start at Goodwill and then drive around to places such as Half Price Books and Value Village. Our wallets and piggybanks are thankful that most of the destinations are second-hand shops!
I am perfectly content with second-hand books and boots; however, I am becoming less and less comfortable with another prevalent hand-me-down, second-hand Christianity. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a second-hand item. It can just seem familiar, like the tradition of folding our hands or closing our eyes when we pray. It can sound normal, like “coveting the prayers” of “prayer warriors” that the right “doors would open.”
Some “Christianese” particularly disturbed me when I was a teenager. I remember analyzing and overanalyzing worn-out phrases like “giving your heart to Jesus” or “asking Jesus into your heart,” expressions that were often used as synonyms for conversion. They seemed so oversimplified, so superficial, so meaningless. I was right — and I was wrong. These expressions are incomplete in that they serve as mere shorthand for the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who supernaturally redeems and transforms a heart of stone into a heart of flesh through Jesus who lived and died in perfect obedience to the Father on our behalf. No cliché — not even the previous sentence — can fully capture the miracle of salvation.
On the other hand, these expressions are not heretical. We just have to realize that they are the leaves, not the roots. We need to trace these leaves back to their roots, relearning these truths from Scripture itself. We cannot settle for pre-chewed Christianity. We need to move beyond Christian clichés to develop a hunger for meat, not milk. Even Christian literature and commentaries need to be put in their proper place as a supplement, not a substitute, for Scripture.
Jesus began “at Moses and all the prophets” on the road to Emmaus. John began “in the beginning,” the same phrase that opens the first book of the Bible. In a similar way, this generation needs to be willing to dig down to the roots of our faith. We cannot ride on the coattails of our parents’ or grandparents’ generations. God calls and empowers us to invest our time and energy into knowing Him in a direct and personal way. We dare not settle for leaves alone.