My mom used to tell us, “Don’t go outside with your head wet. You’ll get pneumonia.” Did your mom tell you that? Over the last 25+ years I have learned that this isn’t true. My mom wasn’t lying to me, but she wasn’t stating the truth either. We all understand now that where this logic or idea came from was the actuality that if your pores are open & your immune system is vulnerable & you allow your body to get chilled, this can make you much more susceptible to getting sick. It’s not wet, sweaty head + cold air = pneumonia. Sorry, Mom.
For any & every mom who ever sold this inaccurate information to their kid’s, if they were confronted about it - the fact that it wasn’t really rooted in solid medical information or evidence or truth - they could not fall back on the excuse, “Well, I’m not a doctor.” That’s precisely the point. If you’re not a doctor and you’re going to make such a substantial claim, it most certainly ought to be rooted in solid, verifiable, trustworthy evidence and information. NOT being a doctor doesn’t give you a license or free pass to share inaccurate medical information. It just means you’re wrong.
In recent years, this has also become the case with biblical principles & theological truth. Things get said about God, scriptures get tossed around in a blog post, or plain flat false claims or bad theology are written in a book and the fall back excuse becomes, “Well, he wasn’t writing a theology book.” Or as I recently saw someone comment that a writer wasn’t “putting her book out there as theology.” Here’s the thing: When you make theological claims - when you, with great influence, say or write things that are going to have heavy sway over the way people (immature or otherwise) are going to understand the scriptures or what they’re going to believe about God - regardless of your intent, you’ve gotten “theological”.
A couple of weeks ago I made a mistake. I posted a book review about a book that I had not read: Girl, Wash Your Face (Stop Believing the Lies about Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be) by Rachel Hollis. A couple of my friends called me out (to an extent) over the fact that I was passing on secondhand critique. They were right. I had not read the book. Moreover, the tone of my post probably came across as condescending & condemning. And sadly, some mildly vitriolic banter ensued as a result. While I was incredibly aggravated with myself for posting something in that manner, I decided I would do something about it. I ordered the book, opened my mind, and read it. I’m fairly certain this is the first time in my life I’ve ordered a book for girls - specifically written for women - and read it cover to cover. But as a shepherd of God for both men and women - and knowing that this book is gaining momentous influence in female Christian circles - I felt compelled that I needed to do my due diligence. Having now read the book for myself, I would like to share my thoughts with you on Girl, Wash Your Face.
First off, let me just say that I’m pretty sure that I would really like Rachel Hollis. Some of my friends know her and speak very highly of her; specifically of the involvement she has in doing tangible work to help people in need and to share the love of Christ. This post is in no way an attack on her character. I don’t know Rachel. I have nothing bad to say about her. These are my views, opinions, and insights on her book, not her person.
One thing I like about this book - or the approach that the book takes - is exposing lies that girls/women tend to believe and attempting to shed light on a better, more accurate view, while also laying out how to either avoid buying that lie or even how to counter it with truth. This is a very compelling way to grab attention, make connection, and get your point across. That said, one of the major issues I have with the book is that in several instances, those “lies” are countered with other lies. Or maybe I should say, half-truths. Let me explain and be specific.
In the very first chapter, the lie Rachel addresses is Something Else Will Make Me Happy. (Man, do I sell myself that lie all the time!) The aim of this chapter - and honestly, much of the book - is finding contentment. I’m all about that. But just a few pages in and this is what we’re told:
“The precious life you’ve been given is like a ship navigating its way across the ocean, and you’re meant to be the captain of the vessel…. This is your life. You are meant to be the hero of your own story.”
To be clear, these words are also surrounded with exhortations like “this doesn’t mean you become selfish” or don’t “discard your faith or quit believing in something greater than yourself.” Those words were lost on me. As a Christ-follower - reading a book from someone I know is a Christian - these words fly straight into the face of what Jesus said. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I have a very difficult time reconciling ”taking up my cross” and “losing my life” to be found in Christ with the idea that this is my life, or that I - Brian Mayfield - am the hero of my own story. I spent the first 17 years of my life attemption to be my own hero and captain my own vessel. I sucked at it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:20 that “…you are not your own. You were bought with a price.” Maybe the root issue causing a lack of contentment for many girls and women - and boys and men, for that matter - is actually believing that I am the hero of my own story. That I’ve (technically) given my life to Christ, but (technically) it still belongs to me.
Here's the thing: YOU ARE NOT THE HERO! I AM NOT THE HERO!
If I’m the hero of my story, the hero is always going to fall short and let me down. But when Christ is the center and the climax and the purpose and the pursuer and the hero of my story, then that’s a story worth living and telling. [See what Paul (the Jew of all Jews) says in Philippians 3.]
The next major issue that I believe needs to be confronted is tolerance & relativism. Mainly, it’s major flaws. In her chapter, I’m Better Than You, Rachel is sharing about her realization that she very often judged people with little (or no) information, and her conclusion that none of us are in a place to judge. In spelling this out and in sharing instruction on recognizing this, she says:
“…just because you believe it doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone. In so many instances judgment comes from a place of feeling as though you’ve somehow got it all figured out when they do not. Judging each other actually makes us feel safer in our own choices. Faith is one of the most abused instances of this. We decide that our religion is right; therefore, every other religion must be wrong.”
There are major theological flaws in these statements and claims. This is important because when we allow major flaws in our understanding of God, His Word, His Church, or our relationship to Him &/or to one another, this can have serious consequences.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Jesus is the truth. He’s the truth for me. He’s the truth for you. He’s the truth for everyone. Whether we want him to be or accept him to be, he is the truth. I do happen to believe this. No - me believing it doesn’t make it true for everyone else; however, it is true for everyone else. Being in a right relationship with God depends on whether we believe this or not. This doesn’t mean that we walk around spouting out “judgment” on others, but it does mean we prayerfully labor to lead them to understand this truth. Jesus is the TRUTH. In Chapter 5, Rachel uses the words “my truth”. I don’t know if Oprah coined that phrase, championed it, or is just the most known person out there using it all the time, but if you’re a Christ-follower - someone who believes in Jesus & has chosen to follow him - I would highly suggest eradicating that phrase (my truth) from your vocabulary. Here’s why: It implies that truth is whatever you want it to be. I know that’s not what is meant many times when it’s said - probably not what Rachel was meaning here either - but that’s what’s being implied, advanced, and believed by most. Truth is whatever I want it to be.
Sorry. That’s a lie.
Rachel goes on to specifically address people judging other people “within the same church…for not being the right kind of Christian. I don’t know the central tenet of your faith, but the central tenet of mine is “love thy neighbor”.
This sounds culturally plausible (mainly because it’s part truth). Yes, Jesus did say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But he said it after saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” If we don’t love God - and know, follow, obey, and worship Him the way He has laid out in His Word - then we won’t truly be loving others the way He intends either. I am supposed to love my neighbor, but I’m also supposed to confront my brother's sin. He’s called to confront mine. Jesus said that through His Spirit and His Word He was placing the “keys of the Kingdom” in our hands. We are to hold one another accountable, bear each other’s burdens, speak the truth in love to one another, and build each other up toward maturity in Christ. That’s painful sometimes. It can get awkward and uncomfortable. But when you think about it you realize that growth requires those things: awkward, uncomfortable pain.
Many people today who claim to be Christ-followers are bending and twisting what they say they believe (and what they actually believe) the scriptures say to be true (which Paul said would happen in 2 Timothy 3-4) because they bring offense to someone else. People’s motive & sentiment is something to the effect: "I want to be loving. I don’t want to be judgmental." The fact is, if Jesus is who He says He is - He is the truth and His Word is truth - but you or I bend it or twist it because we don’t want to offend someone, what we’ve actually done is offensive to God. And it’s not loving our neighbor either. It’s basically saying: I just want everyone to be comfortable.
No such thing.
Let's be clear: The gospel is offensive to those who reject it. Paul says in 1 Corintians 1, "The word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." The gospel is offensive, but we don't have to be. Let's not confuse the two.
Let me stop here, take a breath, and say this: Rachel Hollis’s book, Girl, Wash Your Face, has some really inspiring, motivating, and painfully hilarious encouragement throughout it’s pages. She has some not only really great, but seriously important things to say to girls and women. But the question that won’t stop nagging at me and eating my lunch is this: Why can we not share these things - why can we not express this encouragement, disclose these stories, deliver this exhortation, and say these things - and also care about theology?
Why does it many times have to be an either/or deal, rather than a both/and?
Why do we have to be theologically reckless in order to be culturally relevant or "shockingly honest and hilariously down to earth”?
The answer is: We don’t.
NOT being a theologian doesn’t give you a license or free pass to recklessly or incorrectly misrepresent, teach, or believe God’s Word. It just means you’re wrong.
But as Christians - as sons and daughters of the Most High God - as followers of Jesus Christ - we are all theologians! We are ambassadors for Christ. We are all representing Him with our speech, our actions, our influence, our relationships, and our lives.
Girls, I would totally recommend actually washing your face. But I would also encourage & exhort you to study the scriptures, die to yourselves, surrender to Jesus, stand on His truth, walk in His Word, live by the Spirit, and know that because of the cross, you already have the hero you need. You are not good enough...but He is. Thank you, Jesus!
I believe Rachel is my sister in Christ. I hope her next book is as theologically sharp as it is honest and encouraging and hilarious. That’s a book I would recommend.