It Matters How You Talk About Your Faith
When I was six years old, after my parents and I had come home from church one Sunday night, I came to them and told them I wanted to "get saved," and "invite Jesus to come into my heart."
I was repeating what I had been taught, of course, and I wanted to belong to the family of faith more than anything at that moment. I then prayed the "Sinner's Prayer"--a prayer that I'd been coached to pray for most of my short life by pastors, Sunday school teachers and the like.
Bill Graham's version of the Sinner's Prayer went something like this: "Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name."
After that moment, and for many years later, that last line of that prayer was what defined my understanding of what had happened to me: "I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life..." I can't tell you how many times I have heard people say things like, "When Jesus came into my heart..." or "I invited Jesus to come into my heart."
This understanding of what happens when you devote your life to following Jesus comes from places like Galatians 2:20 when Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me..."
But Paul also turned his metaphors for following Jesus around by saying things like, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Cor 5:17)
So which is it? Does Christ live in me? Do I live in Christ? And why does any of this matter, really? Well, I think it matters because lots of Christians have fallen in to the habit of using catch-phrases and lines culled from the Bible to describe their experience of redemption, transformation and encounter with Jesus.
And in so doing, we create an insider language for our experience that can be off-putting and inaccessible for lots of people.
Which is why I love what the poet Khalil Gibran once wrote when he said, "When you love you should not say 'God is in my heart,' but rather 'I am in the heart of God.'"
Honestly, I think the Apostle Paul would have approved of Gibran's statement wholeheartedly. When we embrace the love of God through Jesus, we embrace the very heart of God--a heart that is full of unconditional and relentless love.
I have come to believe that the way we talk about our experience with the Divine is of of the utmost importance. Language conveys meaning, or it conceals it. As Christians, we would do well to speak plainly and honestly about our faith and what it means to us, rather than trying to use church-y talk that is like an unbreakable code to most people.
May you find ways to share your faith today in plain and beautiful ways. May you discover new language that helps you to convey the transformation that the love of God has brought to your life. May your loving experience of the Divine become accessible to all who encounter you.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.