You have heard it said, “If you like it, then you better put a ring on it!”
And “Keep Portland weird. Put a bird on it.”
But I say to you, “Humble yourself; put a face on it.”
What is this—other than a silly Bible joke and a strange expression?
A reminder that theologies you disagree with are formed by a person, and actions that annoy you are committed by people made in the image of God.
My church history professor, Tony Chute, once said, “If you actually knew most of these people we call heretics, you would think they are pretty good guys.” [That’s a paraphrase.] But the thinking is true, and I’m willing to bet that nearly all of these guys thought they were honoring and worshiping God (as my fiancé has pointed out)…they were simply deceived. In fact, Jesus said just that: “There will come a time when people who kill you will think they are offering service to God.” Another professor, Jeff Lewis, said, “Honestly, if we look at it from a human perspective the Arians just lost the argument. Plain and simple.”
We’ve discussed heresy and heterodoxy here before; let me summarize it by stating straight and clear: Thanks be to God that our redemption rests not upon flawless theology, but upon his grace through the righteousness of God the Son. You and I are always an inch away from heretical and blasphemous thought—in fact, every time we sin we are acting upon those thoughts! Even on our mightiest days, we are yet a breath away from divine treason.
Criticism is Easy
As things stand in fallen humanity, criticism is simple, natural, and easy. How quick we are to lounge upon our couches or sulk in our cars lamenting how far gone everyone is. If only they drove as I do, then the highways would never have traffic. Little wonder they don’t drive as you, sir, since you are perfect and they are not. Since our first parents fell, it is easy to point the finger and decry others for their faults. And why not?—at least we aren’t as bad as them. Besides, I’m showing the righteousness of God and pursuing excellence. False: you are showing the self-righteousness of man and pursuing arrogance.
It’s easy to listen to a preacher and to point out the 4 things he said that weren’t quite precise. Of course there were 4 imprecise things, he’s speaking nonstop for 40 minutes! It’s easy to look at a celebrity and showcase their failings as a leader in society. Of course they’ve failed: they’re a sinful human living 24hours/7days a week/52 weeks a year/30 or 40 or 60 years; and much of the time they spend in spotlight. It’s easy to criticize bureaucracy and systems—the so-called service on the other line of the phone or other side of your inbox. It’s easy to criticize the numbers in statistics. Everything is so easy…
Because we live in a world where humanity is constantly thinking about themselves, and only the redeemed of God have any power to truly forget themselves in worshiping him and loving others.
So Take the Hard Road…
If you can. Choose the more difficult—and the better—path. This is not a demand that you don’t offer critiques when valid; this is not a push toward an undiscerning eye; this is not the typical ‘tolerant’ “don’t judge” discourse. This is a reminder that criticism is the labor of tearing down. Criticism works against creation, destroying what has been wrought. This is a reminder that people exist. People actually live. And people have minds. And hearts. Blood pumping through their veins. Emotions. And more weighing upon their mind than your concerns. They have families and relationships. They have values and perspective. And their hours perpetually pass on.
How easy it is to criticize someone and something. But how quickly our response changes when it is done by a face we know. What if it was your mother who accidentally cut you off? What if it was your grandma who interpreted the work on the cross differently? What if it was your father who is not convinced of your understanding creation? What if it was your best friend who can’t answer your question because of legal requirements?
Certainly you would try to correct them (if it was serious enough), but would you spread malice as you did so? Would you proclaim to Facebook their horrible qualities as a person?
Be in the business of constructing. Of edifying. Of building up. I think some guy somewhere said that before.
Sometimes deconstruction is necessary for a proper building site; sometimes you have to demolish a building to reach the foundation and build up. But many times you can simply redirect the previous efforts—remove a piece here and replace it there.
You, Believer, are in the business of Truth. But you are also in the business of Love. They work together, in unison, not in opposition. So take a moment, humble yourself, and put a face on it.
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