BY PASTOR BRIAN MENDOZA
Several weeks ago, one of our college students, Kasy, gave me a heads up that her friend would be coming with her to Open Door to experience church for the first time. This was no surprise coming from Kasy since she regularly invites her sorority friends to visit church with her.
Having become a Christian only a few years ago, Kasy is mindful of how Christian words easily become lost in translation for first-time guests. For example, she made sure to use Google to explain the word “grace” to her friend and warned her it would probably show up in a lot of our songs and the message that Sunday (it did).
There are a lot of words we use in church that need explaining, such as grace, salvation, and kingdom. But, as of late, one commonly-used Christian word has been trending on social media in the form of a hashtag: #blessed.
If you were to Google the hashtag for yourself, you would find many articles with mixed opinions about its use on social media. Many are critical of its use as the “go-to term for those who want to boast about an accomplishment while pretending to be humble, fish for a compliment, acknowledge a success (without sounding too conceited), or purposely elicit envy.”
While I see their point and acknowledge that they’re probably right in some cases, I think there are better ways for us to respond to our society’s use of #blessed. Two responses come to mind:
1. See #blessed as a reason to rejoice with others.
Isn’t #blessed simply an expression of gratitude? Sure, there might be some bragging involved — and in such cases, a more appropriate response might be to pity their insecurity – but, most of the time, people seem to be expressing genuine happiness about something for which they are thankful.
Life is hard for all of us who live under the curse of the Fall (see Genesis 3). While we should never rejoice with anyone in their enjoyment of sin, why shouldn’t we rejoice with others when something good has come their way?
We have all the more reason to rejoice with others, knowing that God is the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17) who “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the righteousness and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).
I’ll gladly take #blessed over our society’s complaints about first-world problems. It seems to me that those who are critical of #blessed tend to not be so grateful about their own lives.
To use a phrase that’s a bit more outdated: haters gon’ hate.
2. Show others what it means to truly be #blessed.
While I think it’s important to affirm people’s use of #blessed as an expression of gratitude, we can’t just end there. When the Bible invokes the language of blessing, it means something far greater than a general sense of happiness or wellness.
In the Bible, blessing is never described generically as good fortune. To be blessed, you had to receive blessing from someone greater than you, someone who had the power to bless you in the context of a covenant relationship.
For example, if children obeyed their parents, they would receive the blessing of an inheritance. If lesser nations allied with greater nations, they would receive the blessings of the greater nation’s protection and provision.
But this practice went as far back as the beginning of Creation, where God established a covenant with humanity. In our case, however, we broke the covenant, and our disobedience resulted not in blessing but in curse (again, see Genesis 3).
The curse of the Fall is why humanity strives and longs to be blessed. The deeper blessing that we long for and were made for is God’s cosmic blessing. His blessing is the only blessing that really matters. It is the blessing without which no one can be truly blessed. It is the blessing that will right every wrong when Jesus returns.
Do you know why the Christian message is called the “good news” (or more literally, glad tidings)? It is because Jesus came to restore the covenant between God and humanity by his perfect obedience so that we could inherit God’s blessing!
If you have God’s blessing, you can rejoice even when you aren’t #blessed the way the world sees blessing. May all of God’s children declare with our mouths and our lives, no matter our circumstances, that we are #blessed with his blessing in Christ!
Pastor Brian Mendoza leads the #college, and #young #adult ministries at #ODPC.