Let’s not overstate the case – Another cliche to avoid

Crowds and compassion
3 Common Discipleship Mistakes All-Too-Easy to Make

The Cliche

There is a phrase that has been said so many times over the years that it has become a cliche. That phrase can be seen in the picture to the right which shows a church marquee that says, “No God, no peace; know God, know peace.” This church is not the first to use this cliche, nor will they be the last.

It strikes me that this phrase is an overstatement at best and a falsehood at worst. My intention is not to call this church on the carpet but to examine what this phrase is saying and why I think in the end the phrase is not helpful.

The Overstatement

Church Cliche

I am in agreement that a relationship with God puts me in a better position to live at peace. To know the God of the universe and to know his plan for me should provide confidence that no matter what happens, my eternity is secure. My security is then based on my knowledge of who God is, not based on my own ability to change or grow.

Yet, we see that much of the experience of the saints over the years has been internal and external turmoil. Even a casual reading of the Psalms shows the Psalmist’s anguish at his own sin and the sin of others. I know men and women of God who live exemplary lives who are torn with family strife, financial stress and health issues. While they may experience joy in the midst of their trials, what they are experiencing would be difficult to describe as peace.

Jesus tells us “blessed are those who mourn.” It is right to be realistic about where we are; God has much work to do in us and in our world.¬†The statement that a person will experience peace by entering into relationship with Jesus may not be immediately true. I believe that relationship puts us on the path to peace, but peace is not an immediate benefit.

The Fallacy

To the best of my knowledge I am in excellent health, yet I could have a cancer or some other medical condition that has not yet displayed symptoms. In other words I may be confident and at peace about my good health even though an unknown evil is working to bring my peace to an end. I may have a medical need about which I am unaware and I might be at peace in spite of my impending doom.

In the same way, non-believers who have never considered eternity and spiritual reality may be completely at peace in their physical comfort. To say that those who do not know God have no peace is not always true. There are those who don’t know God who are at peace with themselves and with others. They do not know any reason for discontent.¬†Again I would point to the Psalms where the writer complains that those who do not know God are fat, dumb and happy while the saints are suffering.

The peace they experience without God is a transient one; it will not last. So it is our job to explain the temporary nature of that peace and make them aware of the large spiritual reality.

The Result

The church in the picture is trying to reach out to the community with this sign. I applaud them for this. Their motives give every appearance of being right in doing so. Yet to an increasing percentage of our society, this phrase will make no sense. It has become a cliche and perhaps should be abandoned.

What do you think? Is this phrase helpful in 2012 or has it become a cliche?

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Mark McIntyre

A follower of Jesus Christ who shares observations about how Scripture should impact the church and the world. Mark is the original author and editor of Attempts at Honesty.
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Crowds and compassion
3 Common Discipleship Mistakes All-Too-Easy to Make
6 comments
Kirk Jordan
Kirk Jordan

I stumbled on this by way of a twitter link... and thoroughly enjoyed your writing and the basic gist BUT.... I think this little quip tells an essential truth. There are even some proverbs, that if weighted against the totality of scripture and experience might be founding wanting. example. "I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging for bread." (Okay, this is a Psalm - but, I bet we could find some cases where the children of righteous people went without food and had to ask for food from others. The verse points to a general truth, not an doctrinal standard. Peace should be the norm for those who rest in Christ, even when accompanied by upheaval. Perhaps even joined with some forms of inner turmoil. Peace is part of the Holy Spirit's bounty in our lives... So leave the saying alone. It may be simplistic, but it tells a general truth. Much better than some of the truly bizarre things that grace church signs.

Steven Hailstone
Steven Hailstone

The saying is too simplistic. "God" may be the god of one's own making. Peace from what? To many, this saying would not hold much relevance -- our society doesn't have the set of assumptions and background it once did. If the hook of this pithy saying get someone's attention, then let's pray those putting up the sayings can articulate what they mean, should an inquiring mind wish to know.

indy55
indy55

Mark, your point is clever but maybe a bit extreme. I think the message may resonate to someone who is on the path and close to being saved. For the person far away, at least they will feel it is a cleaver statement and read it. They may also remember it. --A mustard seed is a mustard seed.--

Mark McIntyre
Mark McIntyre

Kirk, good points. There is truth in the phrase but like all proverbs, when it is used should be determined by wisdom. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Mark McIntyre
Mark McIntyre

Agreed. We need to stop and think what we're saying and also be sensitive to those to whom we're saying it. Communication must include a feedback step to make sure that what we think we're saying is actually being understood by the hearer.

Mark McIntyre
Mark McIntyre

Thanks Indy, yes I may be overreacting a little. Yet, for myself, until I saw this sign recently, I never really thought through the implications of what this cliche says. I suppose the intent of the post is to get people to think.