The other day, when Mo Brooks was trending for implying that people who live good lives don’t get sick (he did admit later that many people have preexisting conditions through no fault of their own) I commented on someone’s tweet by tweeting “A pastor’s wife told my friend, ‘your son has diabetes because you and your husband must have sin in your life.'”
Twitter being what it is, my tweet was retweeted by indignant antitheists with the alacrity I always hope for with my lonely, unretweeted writer-tweets. Of course, now the tweet was out of context and out of my control.
You might think that my “Dear Christians” is going to be a letter warning you about tweeting ammunition for atheists. It is not. I’m begging you not to get so conceited about your relationship with God that you think you understand his reasons for doing anything. You don’t know why your friend’s son is sick. You don’t know why someone died in an accident. There are so many Bible passages that warn of this conceit. The entire book of Job, where God gets mad at Job’s friends for telling Job that he was sick because he sinned; John chapter 9, where people ask whether a man or his parents sinned, and Jesus says that the man was ill in order to show the power of God and not because of sin; Luke chapter 13, where men ask Jesus what sin some other men committed that caused them to be crushed by a falling tower and Jesus says (my paraphrase) that they have a lot of nerve thinking they aren’t just as sinful.
This same pastor’s wife (and I know a lot of pastor’s wives, so if you know me please don’t try to guess) had a lot of good qualities, but she also claimed to know what a dream I had meant. I went from thinking God had called me to do something to second-guessing myself when she said, “No, that dream meant you’re supposed to help people who have gotten spiritually sidetracked.” I never pursued what I had woken up thinking God had called me to do.
The funny thing about my tweet was that I was immediately followed by angry atheists who thought I was one of them. The thing is, I AM angry about Christians who tell others that they have bad things happen in their life because of sin. These same Christians often decide that the bad things that happen to THEM are sent by Satan because they’re getting too powerful for God’s kingdom.
I sincerely hope that my new atheist friends don’t unfollow me when they see me tweet a Bible verse or something. These are people who have been seriously harmed by Christians. I’ve noticed that most people don’t blame wars on religion unless they have ALSO received deeply personal injuries from people in the church. They may have been assaulted by clergy, not received any grace from their parents, or simply had a Christian acquaintance tell them in passing that their illness was punishment for sin.
Atheists have plenty of ammunition against Christians. I don’t regret what I tweeted. I’d rather get it out there that yes, people within the church say unbiblical and hurtful things, and we’re sorry! My tweet was not retweeted because it was news to anyone, it was retweeted because so many people related to it.
Let’s read our Bibles. Let’s speak in love and let others figure out what God is saying to them. Let’s be humble about how many years it takes to really understand His word and be very, very careful with our words before fully understanding.