Thursday, March 26, 2009


Coming back to last week’s conversation about emotional wholeness….

Well-meaning Christians, trying to be helpful, far too often use scripture out of context. As a result, their “biblical” advice can be confusing and even more damaging. Let’s consider a few examples:

1) "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” [Phil 3:13-14]

While frequently quoted to encourage those with a wounded heart to “put their past behind them and press on,” read in its full context, [*verses 4-8] Paul is actually renouncing all confidence in lofty titles, degrees and family histories. Paul’s desire to give Jesus all glory can not be rightly interpreted as instruction for effectively handling our painful past.

2) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” [2 Cor. 5:17]

This is repeatedly quoted to convince those tormented by agonizing memories, that whatever happened in their past vanished the minute they accepted Jesus. “If you would only walk in your new life,” they are told, “you would find that it’s just as if that old stuff never happened!” Instead, Paul is referring to our reconciliation to God. Our old sinful nature is taken away and our new righteousness comes forth in Jesus! [Vs. 11-21] As glorious as this is, Paul is not promising a miraculous purging of traumatic memories from our minds.

3) “Just forgive and forget.”

Although, Jesus does command forgiveness, I have yet to unearth a biblical command to forget painful experiences!

4) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” [Phil 4:6-7]

Paul is not suggesting that “peace which passes all understanding” will miraculously appear on our emotional screen if we would willfully strike the delete button. Instead, pleading with two women facing strife in their relationship, Paul reminds them to seek God’s peace through rejoicing in Jesus, [vs. 4] prayer and focusing on praiseworthy things [vs.6, 8] instead of arguing.

5) “All you need is Jesus! Just go to Him and He will solve all your problems. You don’t need anyone else. Just go to Jesus!”

Although presented as “Christian” advice more times than I can count, neither applicable biblical references nor a clear picture of what “going to Jesus” looks like are ever offered. Consequently, those writhing in an emotional crisis are left feeling more alone and inadequate: “I guess I shouldn’t have shared my heart. Where and how do I find Jesus? Maybe I just don’t have enough faith.”

Certainly all of us struggling to live with a painful past need to look ahead to the hope that is in Christ; we need reminding of who we are as new creatures in Christ. We need to learn to forgive and to seek God’s peace through prayer. Yes, we need Jesus. But… those who desire to help must learn to use God’s Word responsibly.

Maybe it would be helpful to discuss how we can loving and effectively help the broken-hearted find:

• Hope
• Identity
• Forgiveness
• Peace
• Jesus

What do you say about coming back to this next week?


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