In my days of journalism school, years of seminary training, and decades of writing since, nothing drew more red ink than the dreaded cliché. Like football coaches at pregame pressers, we preachers are prone to sprinkle tired platitudes throughout our messages.
The practice has become so rampant in Christian circles that countless blogs have addressed the subject. In fact, when I searched for articles on good Christian clichés, only those written from a negative slant popped up.
We mustn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, however. At the end of the day, some clichés still communicate well and serve a useful purpose. Here are ten that work well for me.
People don’t care what you know till they know that you care.
Kingdom building requires relationship development. Now, more than ever, people are weary of being preached at without being ministered to. After all, aren’t we commanded to “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
I learned this in fifth grade and have never forgotten it. What’s more invigorating than a clean slate and a fresh start? God is much more interested in where we’re headed than where we’ve been.
It’s not what you know but who you know.
Like it or not, it’s true. How would it have gone for Paul had Barnabas not intervened on his behalf? Where would you be in life had certain people not vouched for you along the way? I even like to spruce it up saying, “It’s not what you know but Who you know.”
Born once, die twice; born twice, die once.
Why do I love this pithy phrase so much? First, it clearly points to the need for spiritual rebirth. As Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). The secular world pokes fun at this phrase, yet it’s absolutely scriptural. Secondly, this saying warns of a second death (Rev. 20:14). Those lost must be continually reminded of the great white throne judgement that awaits the unrepentant.
Where God closes a door He opens a window.
Although this one makes nearly all ban-the-cliché lists, it still packs a punch. After all, God’s delays are not God’s denials. Sometimes He says go, sometimes He says slow, and sometimes He says no. Whatever the answer, He always has a plan for those seeking Him.
Why pray when you can worry?
Where would this list be without a little sarcastic humor? I usually get a chuckle when using this one, especially from the worriers in the crowd. We all know the effectiveness of well-timed humor. Those who laugh now will remember later.
Sin takes you further than you want to go, keeps you longer than you planned stay, and costs you more than you ever intended to pay.
Any method of pointedly communicating the danger and destructive nature of sin is well worth using. At a time when many would prefer to use another word to refer to our trespasses and transgressions, this rhyming maxim drives home the point in a memorable way.
There’s nothing you can do to make God love you any more and nothing you can do to make Him love you any less.
There are those among us who’ve bought into Satan’s lie, deeming themselves unloveable, believing they strayed beyond the reaches of God’s mercy. Others miss the message of grace and seek to do all they can to gain more favor. These words cover both ends of the spectrum.
Except by the grace of God, there go I.
This falls in among the “verses” many think is in the Bible, but isn’t. Nevertheless, it’s true, and effective, serving as a commentary for these words from Paul: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and, and His grace toward me did not prove in vain” (1 Cor. 15:10).
You can’t outgive God.
I mustn’t finish my points without mentioning stewardship. And, what better way to address this oft touchy subject than to proclaim God’s endless mercy and abundant generosity? Anything we give “back” in terms of our treasures, time, and talents pales in comparison to God’s gift of His only Son.
Like that well-worn pair of deck shoes in my closet, I simply can’t part with these ten treasures. They’re fit so well and are appropriate for so many occasions. Also, I’d rather use something that works repeatedly than something once that doesn’t. So, if these bullets fit your gun, fire away.
What do you think? What clichés should stay? Which ones should go?
Featured image credit, edited for size.