I've noticed, especially in myself and in various projects over the past decade or so, that anything less than lavish praise tends tends to be perceived as a lack of support, while attempts at constructive criticism are frequently received as hostile attacks and violent opposition. It's a shame, really, because a rigorous critique and vigorous discussion and debate are among the most helpful and healthy things for the life of the Church, and for the faith and life of individual Christians. Yet, such lively engagement and wrestling with one another over opinions and approaches, over words and actions, makes us uncomfortable. At any rate, sadly, it makes me uncomfortable; and, as a consequence, both I and my neighbor are impoverished by the avoidance of debate.
It's sort of like the way my lovely wife has summarized what passes for communication on Facebook: By and large, it must either be syrupy sweet or panderingly sympathetic. By all means, everything has to be pithy and lighthearted, or ostensibly funny. Passive aggression is tolerated, but only if it is carefully disguised as humor. Insults are likewise permitted, so long as they are aimed at the "others," as in "us vs. them." Disagreements between "friends" are a breach of Facebook etiquette; or, so it has felt and so it has seemed to me. I am the chief of sinners, let that be stated clearly; but I am not alone.
The perception that anything less than praise is akin to hostility is, I suspect, encouraged and exacerbated by the "all or nothing" approach to life, which appears to have become the norm. I'm a big believer in normative truth, and I like to have things "black and white," as much or more than anyone, but trying to insist on "all or nothing" doesn't work in a fallen world; not in Peoria, nor anywhere else. Until the sorting of the sheep and the goats, the weeds and the wheat grow intermingled, and the good and the bad fish are caught up together in the net. The only certainty we have is in the Word of Christ, who speaks both Law and Gospel to us; not the one without the other. He comes not to call the self-righteous, but sinners to repentance. He does not condone sin, but He does forgive it, again and again and again, and He welcomes the Prodigal home on no contingency but His own holy and precious blood. He speaks Peace to us by way of an alien righteousness, and so we find ourselves betwixt and between heaven and hell, simul iustus et peccator. Trying to insist on "all or nothing," is to place both ourselves and our neighbors under the Law; and that is simply to lose both ourselves and our neighbors to sin and death. Rightly dividing the Word of Truth means calling a thing what it is, in friend and foe alike.
Old Lutheran Quote of the Day
1 day ago