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

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?