Warning: this is a rant… not against anyone in particular, but against some things I’ve generally observed and read lately.
Has anyone else been noticing a recent upswing in “Christian Positivism?” I don’t think that’s a real “thing,” but that’s what I’d call it – Christians emphasizing the positives in life, telling you to be happy, smile more, laugh more, be more hopefull.
Most people who know me wouldn’t be surprised to know I’m not a big fan of Joel Osteen. Well, Osteen has a new book out called “I Declare.” From what I understand, it focuses on you declaring God’s promises over yourself.
I really hope I’m not a depressing (or depressed!) Christian, but let’s be honest here – there’s a huge audience for Osteen’s book because so much of life is challenging and difficult. Think about it: Buddhism and Hinduism are two entire religions whose entire goal is to escape this world of suffering and pain!
Scripture time and again teaches that we live in a sinful, fallen, broken world. As sinful people who live in a broken world, we shouldn’t be surprised when we endure seasons of great suffering, pain, and general difficulty. It’s not that there’s something wrong with how I’m thinking about things, and the problem isn’t even in the broken world I live in – I’m a part of the problem! This is simply biblical. There will be good day and bad days, and, as Christians, we don’t need to pretend otherwise or risk being people who lack faith in God’s power and goodness.
It’s in the midst of admitting this reality that we come to the place of Christian hope. My Christian hope is not found through declaring God’s promises over myself, but rather, through confessing my own sinfulness and complete inability to save myself, through confessing that I believe that Jesus Christ (who is God-made-flesh, the second Person of the Trinity) lived perfectly and died innocently on the Cross as my substitute, that Jesus rose from the grave in victory over sin and death – making it possible for me to share in the results of his victory.
Christian hope is completely built upon the sufferings of Jesus Christ and his victory over sin and death through the cross and empty tomb. If Jesus’ victory took him through rejection, suffering, and persecution then why should we expect a different fate? Did Jesus endure those things so that we wouldn’t have to? I think the lives of the Apostles and the story of Church History should be a clear and resounding “Duh, no!”
So please forgive me if I sound like a mean-spirited Christian kill-joy, but I’m very skeptical of this Christian Positivism. I’m not skeptical because Christians aren’t supposed to be filled with joy (indeed, they are – so much so that I’d encourage you to ask some hard questions about your Christian faith if there’s no joy in your life!), instead, I’m skeptical because God promises joy through suffering. (If I wasn’t testing out writing this blog post on an iPad and was more comfortable on it then I’d offer a collection of Scripture verses to back this up.)
Please don’t ask me to declare God’s promises over myself. Instead, I’d rather read the Bible and cling to the promises I read in there, and allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen my hope and joy and confidence in God’s faithfulness in the midst of tough days.
As a broken person who is being repaired bit-by-bit and day-by-day, I have great reasons to remember the solid hope and joy that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, but I need those most because I know how deeply I need them.