Thursday, May 31, 2012


Last Saturday I was watching a movie with my family because my uncle was an extra in it. It was a recent one called Higher Ground, about a woman's lifelong struggle with faith in a close-knit community of "Jesus people". Anyway, throughout the movie I kept picking out things I didn't like about how Christian faith and practice were portrayed, idly thinking about biblical arguments on why they were wrong. Then Romans 2:1 hit me like a hammer:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judged the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
That took the wind out of my sails. Regardless of whether my criticisms were true or not (and they aren't even important), I was only increasing my own guilt by making them. I think this applies pretty broadly to Christianity in general. The language of negation, James Hunter argues, is nihilistic; it adds nothing to a conversation but only takes away. The redemptive work of the church in the world is all about building up and restoring creation; tearing down is not the focus. Clearly condemnation, even when it is true, must be used sparingly and carefully by the church.

So, this post: "metanegation". The negation of negation. Hopefully the last outright condemnatory post I will ever write. As Jesus shows numerous times with the Pharisees and in the temple, negation does have its place in the Christian life, but of course Jesus did not come to expose the Pharisees for the proud hypocrites they really were; He came that we may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10) I believe Jesus showed that loving your enemies (enough to die for them!) can be more powerful and more God-glorifying than fighting them. Sometimes love does take the form of telling people what they're doing wrong, but this should never be our first impulse. I'll close with one last verse that I think is applicable, Ephesians 4:29-32.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

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