“God told me…”
It is tempting to say this phrase as a Christian and there are namely two scenarios when this occurs. The first is when it actually happens. I have clearly heard God tell me (not audibly) to do certain things throughout my life. Some have been small and specific in a moment. Others have been huge decisions I needed to make. Often times these leadings seemed to go beyond logic alone. The second, is when Christians are trying to justify something that they want to do that doesn’t line up with reality–or doesn’t line up to what He is saying to other Christians.
This post will address the second of the two.
For a Christian, stating an argument that is coupled with “God told me” is the mother of all arguments. It can’t be topped. It can’t be refuted. It can’t be questioned. Or so we often believe.
The problem with using this phrase when God hasn’t actually revealed Himself is that it is a card you only get to play a few times. Like the boy who cried wolf, the community of believers around you will take note when your representation of God doesn’t align with the reality of what they see God doing. We can easily turn God’s will into a “Where’s Waldo” scavenger hunt of whatever your emotions are driving you to at the moment. What is God’s status this week?
The concerning thing to me is how often I see it get used in this second category.
There are two dangerous responses that believers can take to this reality. The first is to never talk about anything God’s Spirit is leading you to do (and thus stop expecting His Spirit to do it), and the second is to back up every decision that you make with this level of buy-in from God. The solution is to have a transparency that is honest about when God clearly speaks and even more honest about when it is you speaking. Sure, this may mean that people won’t buy in to what you are saying the way you hope. The reality is that if you abuse this statement, they don’t believe you anyway.
It may surprise some that the apostle Paul was comfortable with this tension. Notice his words to the church in Corinth (underline mine):
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Corinthians 7:10-14)
Paul would be better able to use this argument than any of us today, and yet he resists the temptation. My encouragement for all of us is to seek God’s guidance and leading daily but that we will be bold enough to resist the temptation to put God on our side with every opinion that we carry. It will require a new level of dependence upon God’s Spirit that is desperately needed in our churches today–and an insanely greater level of humility.
Trust me on this, God told me. 😉
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