Thursday, January 16, 2014

Is it wrong to criticize?

Is it wrong for Christians to criticize? How often we have heard or have said ourselves, "Don't judge." It's as if using our critical faculties (the ability to observe and assess) is not friendly to the Christian Way. I don't think this is the case. A friend recently shared with me the following quote:
"Many Western Buddhists believe that judging runs counter to insight and unconditional compassion, that passing judgment automatically implies a troubling duality, a delusional moral hierarchy. The Buddha, however, warned not against judging, but against being judgmental. The former implies clear comprehension of appropriate action and the latter implies bias and misconception."
--Mary Talbot, “No Justice, No Peace"
This is a really helpful distinction. In studying Paul's first letter to the Church in Corinth in which he is most critical of the believers there, I found that he had a unique and similar approach. Before he upbraids the believers for their shortcomings, he makes sure they understand who(se) they are. As believers baptized into Christ, he intimates that it is not their spirit that is false. Rather, it is their failures that are untrue. He tells them essentially not that they have failed to measure up to an ideal that they have yet to attain, but that they are not fulfilling the character with which they have already been gifted. In other words, they are not failing to attain something outside of themselves, but that they are not exploiting what already exists inside them-life in Christ Jesus. 
In this way, Paul sets for us an example: that godly, Christian critique (criticism) must always take the form of an exhortation to fully receive what we have already been given! (Alan Gregory)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Blessing begets blessing

Increasingly, we live in an age that finds it hard to trust. Cynical and unsure, suspicious and pessimistic, unable to enjoy the gifts we have when they are right in front of our eyes, we vote reluctantly or not at all, despair of our political choices (“They’re all crooks anyway”), assume the moral bankruptcy of every institution on our society (“Government does not have a problem, government is the problem”). Facts don’t seem to matter; weird conspiracy theories emerge at every turn. We live in an age that finds it easy to suspect and increasingly difficult to trust.

That is not just too bad. It creates an environment where faith becomes more and more difficult. The spiritual life is all about trust. We grown spiritually when we trust in God and not by covering our flank and greeting every new opportunity with suspicion and mistrust. We simply don’t grow when we think that way. Rather, we shrink from a full and active life.

The abundant healing of Christ readily washes over us but only the heart that is open can avail itself of it. Those who have open hearts know how possible life seems when one dares to believe and acts on that faith. It is the at the root of a confident life.

It becomes, in a way, a self-fulfilling prophecy – this trust. The more I trust in the goodness of God and its action in my world, the more evidence I have for it and I am able to see more opportunities for its impact. It is this way that I become one who builds up rather than one who tears down.

This is how blessing begets blessing in the economy of God.