“Mercy has converted more souls than zeal, or eloquence, or learning or all of them together.” — Søren Kierkegaard
Ever since I started blogging, I’ve had a consistent flow of readers both “affirm” and “critique” the topics I choose and the postures I take. Most of the critiques revolve around two options.
There is usually 1) a concern that I am being too hard on the church or 2), having a harsh or critical spirit. The affirmations I receive usually revolve around two options. There is 1) gratitude for challenging convetional paradigms within the church or 2) that my charitable dialogue is appreciated. If you are one of these faithful people, I have always appreciated both conversations and hope to have more, yet the irony is never missed.
As I continue to write, I have realized that the things I care and write about will always be experienced as healing for some while a hubris for others. So the question remains, who should I listen to? I have learned that it’s neither, with the exception that if only one side is talking to me, it may be a good idea to practice some self-reflection. But as long as I hear from both, both will be heard.
At the same time, I have also found that affirmation is a powerful tool, much more powerful than critique. This is foundational to most of my deepest convictions and I am attempting to have that influence my writing as well as my marriage, parenting, teaching, etc. So what does this have to do with the church?
A long time ago, I sensed that my purpose in life was to love the church and to do so in a way that held the church in high esteem regardless of the intrepid foray that many make in their attempt to critique and scourge her. I tend to forget that though I have this calling, I am also part of the church – a “lifer” you might say. Part of the critique I’ve received, as discussed above, has been that I am too critical of the church I’m a part of. That has been true – I am guilty. I have also been extremely hopeful and affirmative of the Church universal – of this I hope to be continuously guilty.
Yet, in reflecting upon the criticism I engage, I’ve noticed that my effort is usually to address those that would distort the church, use the church for their own purposes and who give the bride of Christ a bad name, when we are commanded to do the opposite (1 Tim. 2). So I have to come to a point where I accept the power of affirmation alongside the ability to critique and my conclusion is thus:
“The force of affirmation is always more powerful than critique, yet anyone with the power to influence using either of these forces needs to be self-reflective and self-regulated. If they don’t, they leave that job to others.”
So, let us love the church wholly and deeply, but never detain our discernment or needed critique – especially for those who seek to distort and hi-jack the church, expecting the rest of us to conflate their version of the church with the actual bride of Christ. We not only need to love the bride of Christ, but allow her to love us. Receiving love is much more difficult than giving it when we know there is a need, but that need requires honest appraisals and committed love. So I not only invite you to love the church deeply, but to also trust her to love you, if not for the first time, maybe after a long time. Peace.