By Aaron Evans
“When you come to church, when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God, really. You’re doing it for yourself. When we obey God, we’re not doing it for God, we’re doing it for ourselves.”
This is the statement that Victoria Osteen preached with a smile to the congregation of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, alongside her husband, Joel Osteen.
Needless to say, my jaw hit the ground as I watched the YouTube clip from Osteen’s sermon that went viral. I watched it again, just in case I had imagined the outrageous statement I just heard, a small part of me hoping that it was some kind of joke or a statement taken out of context. My mouth still hung open. I hadn’t misheard her, and there was no way that statement would be acceptable even in the right context. This woman was legitimately saying that our worship to God isn’t actually for God, but a way to make ourselves feel better.
Immediately after watching the video, I was angry, as many Christians were. How could she say those things about God when the Bible tells us something completely different? We are reminded from Genesis to Revelation that God deserves our praise because He created us and still died for us in spite of our unfaithfulness to Him.
However, as the many articles regarding Osteen’s statement began to rear their ugly heads in social media, I noticed something almost as angering and disturbing as Osteen’s words.
What I read were articles that went beyond the line of criticism and questioning and were simply attempts to belittle Osteen and her husband that were nothing short of mean-spirited. Blogger Matt Walsh echoed the voice of many Christians in his blog, “The Matt Walsh Blog”, by stating, “In more primitive times they burned heretics at the stake. Now we greet the blasphemers with applause and multi-million dollar book deals. I’m not sure if the latter response is any more enlightened than the former, but both are wrong.” This is only one of the many harsh statements made by Christians on social media. Also, let’s not forget the YouTube parody of the Osteen’s sermon excerpt that is followed by a clip from Bill Cosby shouting, “that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!”
Simply making the comparison of burning people at the stake for heresies, hurling insults, or even calling someone stupid shows that we are not showing the grace that Christ calls us to utilize when our brothers and sisters make mistakes, which include blasphemy.
Is blasphemy a sin? Yes. Can it be forgiven? Yes. Should we hold one woman’s sinful statement to a higher degree that deems a public persecution? Absolutely not.
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:6, when talking about people who present false teachings, Christians should “point these things out to the brothers and sisters, [and we] will be a good [ministers] of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that [we have] followed.”
This does not come in the form of insults, but rather loving correction followed by forgiveness for the hurt and confusion the false teaching may have caused.
Don’t be mistaken, I am not defending Osteen’s statement or claiming it isn’t blasphemous, because it is. What Osteen said isn’t just absent from scripture, but it goes directly against it, and all one needs to do is open their Bible and read a few chapters to see that. It was wrong, plain and simple.
Osteen released a statement via email interview to the Houston Chronicle stating, “While I admit that I could have been more articulate in my remarks, I stand by my point that when we worship God and are obedient to Him we will be better for it.”
Yes, we are blessed by worshipping God. In the presence of God we are made whole, are healed, and find our purpose and identity. Just look at the Psalms and see the joy that David received by praising God. But it was through praising God for who He is that David received the fullness of joy that exists in His presence. We find happiness by worshipping God for the sake of God, not for the pursuit of feeling good and gaining something.
Could Osteen have worded her statement more carefully? Oh, yes. However, we commit no less of a sin by slandering and hurling insults to Osteen and her husband’s ministry. That is outside of the definition of biblical correction. Instead, we should leave the biblical correction to Osteen’s personal and church family, extend grace, and pray for a sinful human who messed up, like so many of us do on a daily basis.