Though I would not consider myself the most eloquent of men, nor one with any kind of satisfactory vocabulary, there are many words we use in church (speaking of the evangelical church at large) that puzzle me. One of these words is “just.” Here I am not talking about “the just” as in Romans 1:17, but as in “only” or “merely.”
Let me give you some examples of how we use the word “just” in church:
“I just want to encourage you to attend the Sunday evening service tonight . . . “
“We are just trying to worship the Lord the best way we know how . . . “
“I just want to know that we’re happy you’re here . . . “
“The Lord just asks you to let him into your heart . . .”
“You just have to believe and pray for the Lord to save you . . .”
Getting the picture? Now I am sure that there are churches out there that never use the word “just” in this sense or the contexts I listed above. I am generalizing a bit here. But sometimes we Christians can get pretty mousy about the gospel. We want to make it as easy as possible. Our language has taken us to a place where we no longer understand the words of our Lord like those found in Luke 14,
26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my
disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? 29Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, 30Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? 32Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. 33So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. 34Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? 35It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
This is something our Lord said “after great multitudes” started coming to him (v 25). If we had great multitudes following us, we would probably say something like, “boy, we’re just happy to have you with us today.”
We have become so apologetic that we have forgotten that this is the gospel and the Lord God we serve. We sound like this Christianity thing is just another option on the shelf. We make it sound as if God is not really going to demand that every knee bow and every tongue confess. We are stumbling over ourselves not to offend any possible living creature with the claims of the gospel. They can find happiness in so many other things, why should they bother to find it here?
I am not astute enough to pin-point why we speak in this way. It is probably a number of things. Certainly part of it is our fear of man, and our desire for numbers. Probably part of what drives us to speak this way is that we are so eager to see the salvation of souls, that we do not want to “step on any toes.” We want to grease the floor so that the unregenerate will slip right into heaven. The Lord will take care of all that “discipleship stuff” after we get the poor man saved first. So we hope.
But then we start using the word “just” with our church members. “We just want to encourage you to come to prayer meeting.” Is this what pastoring has become today, just offering a list of possible things to do? “I just want to encourage you to be more faithful in prayer.” All we do anymore, it seems, is “just encourage” one another.
There is a ditch on the other side of the “just” ditch. I am not advocating we beat the unregenerate and lax laity with some kind of set of legalistic commandments. But I am concerned about how much time we spend apologizing over the demands of God on people’s lives. He does not want “just trying” worship, he demands our reverent worship. He does not “just encourage” men to repent, he demands repentance. We should compel them to come in, and do it in a way that lifts up the gospel in all of its high demands–unfiltered, undistilled, unsoftened. When we do this responsibly, we can cofidently rest in the work of the Spirit to save those he will.
But there is yet a greater danger. Our overuse of words like “just” threatens us with a terrible result, that we begin to view the Christian life in a distorted fashion. The believers in our midst begin to view Christianity differently when we grow lax in how we speak and worship. The Christian culture changes, because the words have changed.
Thus may we guard against careless expressions, and pray that we would so understand and love the gospel and the God of the gospel that we proclaim as it is meant to be proclaimed–lovingly, boldly, and completely.