Too Quick to Agree

In religious circles, the word “Amen” is often used.  At least in my country, we don’t tend to use this a lot outside of church (including groups of people who go to church), but it didn’t start out as a special word.  Words like “bible”, “communion”, “holy”, “sanctified”, “apostle”, and “gospel” are the same way, having a relatively straightforward meaning originally, but eventually growing out of use in common conversation (while remaining active in certain environments).

So, let’s explain the word, “Amen”: If someone says “amen”, they are pretty much just agreeing with what another person said.  Think about what you (or your friends) might say when someone else makes a great point: Do you say, “Oh yeah, that’s right”, “Sure thing”, “Rock on”, or “You go, girl!”?  Whatever phrase you use (even if it’s not one of these sayings from the 80’s), you can think about that when you hear the word, “amen”.  (In fact, other phrases are perfectly legitimate things to say in church rather than “amen”, although you may get some funny looks in certain churches if you yell out “rock on” when the pastor says something particularly compelling.)

Now, there’s a difference between being so moved by a speaker that we blurt out our affirmation (whether “amen” or otherwise) almost involuntarily, versus when a speaker asks for affirmation.  There are some pastors who call on their audience to say “amen” frequently throughout their sermon or at the end of their prayers.  I’m not judging them for this, since Moses instructed the Israelite people to respond with “Amen” to a series of pronouncements, like this one:

“Cursed is anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by carrying them out.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
Deuteronomy 27:26 NIV

Conversely, the Bible also warns against speaking too hastily:

Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.

God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 NIV

Now, I think that these verses from Ecclesiastes (as well as something like 1 Timothy 5:22) are a little more specific than just saying “amen” in church, but I think that we can find other Bible passages warning us to be careful with our tongue.

I admit that sometimes, when a pastor invites the audience to say “amen” to a particularly key point, I haven’t yet processed what was said enough to know whether or not I want to affirm it.  Maybe it’s because it takes me a bit to think through the points.  Maybe it’s because I want to compare the statement against what I know from the Bible.  Or, maybe it’s just because I wasn’t paying good attention!

Now, I’m not telling you that you have to say “amen” in church a certain number of times per service (although your pastor might do so), nor that you shouldn’t say it at all.  I’m not even suggesting that you need to use the word “amen” to agree with someone.  However, this is a good time to pause and think about what it means to speak up in favor of something that has been said: whether in a sermon, a conversation, or a discussion online.  This could be as simple as clicking on a “Like” button, even.  (You do actually read something first, right, before telling the world that you support it?)

So, how can we identify whether or not we should agree with something?  Let me propose that the following list from the book of Philippians (in the Bible) is a good place to start:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8 NIV

After all, if these are attributes of what we should dwell on in our own minds, they would seem to be good things for us to support in the words and lives of others.  Ideally, everything that a pastor or other Christian speaker says would be consistent with these principles, but it is still good to check that out (see Acts 17:10-12).

Taking this one step further, in order to identify what is true, noble, right, etc., we must know what those things are.  Studying God’s word is a great way to to be able to identify what God says is true, what God considers to be noble, what God knows is right, and so on.  Through the study of the “real thing” – meaning our own reading of the Bible, rather than only listening to others teach it – we are fitted (or “armed”, per Ephesians 6:10-17) with the facts, and become better prepared to evaluate whether or not we should agree with something that is said.  This knowledge, combined with God’s insight (“discernment”), helps us decide whether or not it is OK to say “amen” to a particular statement, or to like a post.

Once we have invested in God’s Word, and have also learned to listen for His leading (which happens to often be spoken to us through the Bible), then we are better prepared to know the truth when we hear it, and to know when to speak up in order to attest to the truth.


Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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