Do we carefully weigh what we think and say about others against Scripture? Likely not. Do we quickly frown upon others’ “unbelievable sins”? Likely yes!
Three words regularly infect our relationships. We often say or think them with respect to others’ supposed or actual sinfulness. If the article title helped you think of the phrase “I can’t believe…!”, then we’re on the same page. Even if not, I bring this up because I’m confident that God’s Word judges this seemingly harmless phrase to be swelled with pride and gracelessness. They also do much more damage than we give them credit.
You might also be tempted to think that my hammering of these words is “straining a gnat”; I call it appropriately applying the Scriptures to how and what we think and say.
Reason being: Jesus Christ cares about our every word (consider Matthew 12:36-37; James 3:2-10; Ephesians 4:29; Psalm 19:14; Proverbs 18:21; etc). Thus we ought to see the phrase “I can’t believe” and others like it as puffed-up forms of judgment. The idea that whatever we say, do, or think is “more believable” than the same for someone else is quite ridiculous really. I’ll even suggest that it’s a willful protest against God’s perfect and sovereign will. Disagree? Please present your case in the comments.
Part of the problem is that we use certain words so much that over time they lose their true weight and meaning in our minds. We “wear them out,” so to speak. They become “just words,” as though we’ve granted ourselves the authority to define language according to whatever sinful pleasures we want to justify at a given time. We forget, or don’t care enough altogether, that since the fall words have been used as weapons to attack…even devour one another.
Consider anyone with whom you have a relationship. Is not declaring or thinking “I can’t believe…!” about anything in regards to them simply saying, “What business do you have being the person you actually are?” And very likely hidden underneath is, “How dare you not be like me?!” If you’re well-acquainted with the use of this phrase, you’re surely as well-acquainted with the aftermath of injecting it into whatever “unbelievable” conversation you’re having. It generally isn’t pretty.
I’ve noticed the “I can’t believe” attitude much in myself over the years. (Though perhaps it’s good that the Spirit has enabled me to identify this to be the case!) Friends, extended family, my wife…there are many people that have done or said that which I considered unbelievable. If you’re in the same boat, we must grasp that this makes us no different than the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14! Along with that, we’re acting as though Romans 3 was never written. This attitude is void of grace (recall: gracelessness), which is what ought to characterize our interactions. Surely the gravity of one’s sinfulness should never be lessened; we certainly have some duty to help our brothers and sisters fight sin. However, Christians must take care to focus the brunt of their energies on battling their own besetting sins. Our job isn’t to worry about others’ “unbelievable sins”, but our own. If anything is truly unbelievable, look no further than the cross. For that, it is definitely appropriate and biblical for every one of us to think, “I can’t believe!” (Think of the hymn How Can It Be?) Yet it was Jesus Christ being exactly Who He truly is!