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Friday, November 05, 2010

Affirmation in church: also needed

I started a series on affirmation some time ago. The first two posts are here and here. In them, I argued that affirmation is important, and that a failure to affirm anything is one of the things that makes current culture, especially popular media, sick and wrong. (Many things should not be affirmed, of course!)

I believe that conservative Christian churches, of the kind that I am a member of, often fail similarly. We are known for what we are against, not what we are for. And, I'm afraid, the reputation is often deserved.

Yes, we should be against some things. I recently heard a good sermon, one that my church, and I, probably needed. The speaker indicated that there are guidelines in the Bible about what we should not do. He referred to the Ten Commandments. Of the Ten, it is true that only one (Honor your parents) is mostly or entirely positive. The rest are mostly or entirely stated as "You shall not." Another guideline he mentioned is that we should not take up practices that enslave us. We also should not do things that do not edify ourselves, or other Christians. All that is true. But it's not the whole story, and perhaps these same truths need to also be presented in a different way.

Actually, Jesus, Himself, presented them in a different way. He said that the Old Testament could be summed up in two commandments. (See Matthew 22:34-39) Those two commandments are positive. They are not commands to stay away from doing certain things, but commands to do something -- to love God, and our neighbors. The Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 is also a command to do, and is, in fact, a restatement of the second of the two commandments in Matthew 22.

We need to practice integrity. We need to be virtuous. We need to be holy. We need to be like Christ. Those are all things we can do, with God's help. If doing them is our goal, and the center of our discourse, rather than our goals and discourse being about avoiding certain things, we will be more attractive, and do more good for the Kingdom.

Winning quarterbacks try to not be intercepted or sacked. But that's not all there is to winning. The most reliable way to not be sacked or intercepted is to stay on the bench. Winning means being committed to a cause and a goal. Doing something.

Christianity should be a commitment, and a commitment to do something. We applaud (or should) commitments to a marriage, to raising a family, to caring for those less fortunate than we, to various causes, such as political parties or saving the environment, rigorous training to achieve some goal, such as making a team, getting into medical school, becoming a classroom teacher. We should also applaud a commitment to following Christ. And we should commit to that ourselves. Christianity shouldn't be about putting anyone down. It should be about being lifted up.

Thanks for reading!


FancyHorse said...

Very well stated! Thank you!

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you for that affirmation, FancyHorse.