By Scott Keith –
Recently, I have been spending a lot of time among Evangelicals. Conferences, speaking engagements, and social gatherings have all provided opportunities for conversation and hopefully real Gospel proclamation. I’ve even become “friends” with a great many of my new acquaintances on Facebook. But, as a result, #blessed has caused my Facebook feed to be filled up with cute and quippy messages from my new Evangelical friends. What I’ve noticed the most is how often my new friends note that they are “blessed.”
On Twitter (and other Social Media platforms whose names always escape me), for you older folks, the moniker “#blessed” amounts to “Hashtag Blessed.” Furthermore, you may be asking as I did, “What the hell is a hashtag?” Well, Wikipedia tells me: “A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social network and microblogging services which make it easier for users to find messages with a particular theme or content. Users create and use hashtags by placing the hash character (or pound sign) # in front of a word or unspaced phrase, either in the main text of a message or at the end. Searching for that hashtag will then present each message that has been tagged with it. A hashtag archive is consequently collected into a single stream under the same hashtag.”
So, as far as I can gather, when an Evangelical, Lutheran, or anyone else, for that matter, uses the call sign “#blessed” after a fun story or anecdote on Social Media, they are attempting to tell the world that whatever lesson the post was intended to communicate was brought about because they are individually blessed by God. At this point, you may be wondering just what the Sam-Hell I am talking about. Sometimes things are better seen for oneself than explained. Thus, I will provide you the reader with a few examples.
These are real examples from my Facebook feed. Note: For ease of reading, I’ve corrected some of the atrocious grammar.
- “When your dog is friends with your best friend’s dog #blessed.”
- “One year since High school prom wouldn’t change a thing. #blessed”
- “Just got pulled over today and didn’t get a ticket. #blessed”
- “Went to Starbucks with my bestie. When I order my favorite vanilla latte, the barista accidentally made two. Bestie got a free latte! #freelatte #blessed.”
- “Helped a friend get accepted into graduate school. #blessed”
- “Got told I don’t have work today, so I’m at golf. #blessed”
What is the point of all this? Well, I think that my Evangelical friends are falling into a trap that we all tend to fall into at times. That trap is reaching too far to connect, either positively or negatively, our outward actions with being blessed or cursed by God. Or believing that everything that happens to us can somehow be connected to “God’s eternal plan for every aspect of our lives” just because we are Christian.
Some time ago, I had a conversation with one of my Evangelical friends regarding conversion. She believed that the sinner could only be brought to the one true faith if they first “decided” to follow Jesus and show that inward decision through some outward action, like praying the Sinner’s Prayer. But, once a Christian, she believed that God planned out every outward aspect of her life––who she would marry, what job she would have or not have, how many children she would have, where she would live, and the like.
Do you see the problem? The above indicates that God doesn’t make the eternal decisions––who is to be saved and how and when they come to faith in Christ––but He does make every other decision for the Christian, as named above. In other words, God doesn’t decide to save you, but He does decide if you should by the house on 1st Street instead of the one on 8th Avenue. (I’ll keep the specific inconsistencies of how problematic, such theological formulations are for another post. Needless to say, the idea that God decides the temporal and not the eternal seems wholly un-Biblical. The title of that post will be “Evangelical Manichaeism.”)
There is nothing wrong per se when a Christian believes that God will work everything out for their good. In fact, the Scriptures clearly speak that way: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” (Romans 8:28) But catch the second part of that verse: “for those who are called according to his purpose.” He works things out for good who are called according to His purpose.
His purpose is to save you on account of Christ. His purpose is to make you His child on account of Christ. He works everything out for your good. That is, He works out your redemption on account of Christ. The moment we begin to think that life will be #blessed with prosperity and not with suffering because we are Christians, we have deceived ourselves. “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) The truth is, it took me one minute to find more than 50 verses that deal with Christian suffering described as a blessing!
God promised that we would be blessed with trials and tribulations, as well as earthly blessings like friends, family, and loved ones, who persevere with us in the fellowship of the saints. The mutual consolation and conversation is a blessing because it too imparts a strengthening of the faith and the Gospel on the lips of another. Amen to all of our blessings! Let’s just make sure they are actually from God before we # (Hashtag) them.
“I just finished my blog for the week! #blessed”