One trademark of a community (for better or for worse) is that over time, it develops its own “insider” language. For churchgoers (notice I did not necessarily say “Christians”), this is referred to as Christianese. At first glance, this might seem harmless. However, a community’s insider language can actually become detrimental to the health of that community if and when the following occur:
1. That language, over time, perpetuates an idea that though not necessarily true, comes to be accepted as true due to the word or phrase being repeated time and time again. Language is powerful. It is the vehicle by which express, convey, and exchange ideas. Ideas shape people and people shape history.
2. That language keeps others from feeling accepted. If you went to another country and nobody attempted to speak your own language when addressing you, you would at all times feel isolated, alone, and not welcome. When you are the “outsider,” the “insiders” must intentionally use your language to make you feel included or else you will eventually distance yourself from that community.
Christianity is a community. As with any community, Christianity has its own language. This is not inherently evil. However, if we are not careful, we can succumb to the two previously mentioned pitfalls and thus harm one another as well as push “outsiders” away.
Here is one cliche that, more than just an expression, is spreading an idea as Gospel truth that I take issue with. Here is the expression: “Delayed obedience is disobedience.” Now, I am not arguing that this is not true in some cases. However, I am not so sure that our Patient God is always that task-masterish (I know that is not a word). Is obedience important? Absolutely! It would serve us well in our democratic society to realize that there are times God is simply going to tell you something to do or not do and your job is to immediately follow through. Jesus is, after all, a King. Yet, I do not believe that every time you do not obey the very next second, that God is put out with you. My fear in writing this blog is that I will be severely mistaken as to what I am saying or not saying.
Really, the only problem I have with this cliche is that it, in my opinion, perpetuates the following idea: If you did not obey God immediately, it is too late. You are already guilty. You have already disobeyed. Repent now, and move on. The past is the past.” Now, there are times this is true. However, over the last year, the Lord told my wife and I to do something really big. It required a lot (I am not sharing the specifics because in Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to stand on street corners screaming our good deeds for attention). He first whispered the command in May 2013. He brought it back around in October 2013. Then, after much struggle and some fear of the unknown, we obeyed God in November. That was 1/2 a year later.
Now, somewhere in the process, I did repent. I suspect the delay was because God was asking us to do something so much bigger (i.e. required more trust than ever before) than anything we had previously done. I did not take Proverbs 3:5-6 to heart. Yet, at the end of the day, I sensed God’s immense delight and pleasure over our step of obedience. Did you hear me? God was still pleased, still delighted, still touched that we trusted Him enough to step out on the waters and obey. When all was said and done, God viewed our process as obedience, not disobedience. You might say, we lost a battle, but in the end, we won the war.
Is it not better to eventually obey than to simply not follow through because you did not respond immediately? We told the Lord we were sorry and then did what He told us to do. Does God deserve immediately obedience? ABSOLUTELY! Yet, my wife and I’s faith is in process. We are maturing as we go. My hope is that next time, we respond much quicker because we are further along in our faith.
Another factor that comes into play is where you are at on your spiritual journey. The more mature you are in your faith, the more God expects from you. His response toward your delay will probably depend on exactly how far along you are with Christ.
All that being said, some moments come and go. You disobeyed. Repent. However, other moments do not come and go. God is still sitting in that moment waiting for you to revisit His last instruction to you. You still have time to obey, and if you do, at the end of the day, you will experience His delight rather than His scorn.