My daughter has a story book about a boy who wakes up one day and sees a little baby dragon in his room. It’s all rather harmless and when he tells his mother about it, she tells him to stop making stuff up and get dressed and come down for breakfast, using her repeated phrase, and the title of the book, “There’s no such thing as a dragon!”Continue reading “The Dragon”
Wrong Forms of Critical Judgement
Matthew 7:1-6 says that it is wrong to judge others in four senses.
First, Jesus says, we are blind but claim to be able to see. How can we see when we have a great big plank in our eyes? So often, in a pub or a restaurant, we overhear conversations between opinionated types – full of judgmental assertions, lacking all argumentative rigour, and embarrassing to listen to. This is what Jesus is on about.
Second, we judge small issues but fail to see big issues. We focus in on a small speck, and yet ignore a large plank. So often, in public places, we overhear people impatiently squabbling over trifles. At a distance, however, it looks like an entire relational pattern has gone wrong, that the trifles themselves are not the issue. Gnats are being strained out, but camels are being swallowed. Jesus is speaking about this too.
Third, we set up a Kangaroo Court to legitimise our sinful interests. Somehow, it isn’t the plank that’s the ‘real’ problem to us, which is why we don’t bother to remove it. This reminds us of the way powerful countries legitimise the exploitation of Third World countries whilst at the same time passing criticism on their patterns of government. Similarly, Jesus attacks the Pharisees, calling them white-washed tombs. The Pharisees had believed their own show of righteousness and were deceived about the truth of their sin.
Fourth, we emphasise others’ sin in order to hide our own. The whole point about focusing on the speck in our brother’s eye is to create a diversion from self-criticism by relativising our sin compared to the ‘much worse’ sin of others, who become our scapegoats. Thus, in the breakdown of relationships sometimes, each thinks it’s the fault of the other, and neither attempts to be self-critical before they point the finger. Some are great at confessing others’ sin from the front of the church under the guise of ‘sharing a difficult experience’. But often their own sin, including their taking revenge on the person being talked about, is far from the spotlight. In the same way, the Pharisees looked down on ‘sinners’ and ‘tax-collectors’, but Jesus said that because the latter often admitted their sins, they would be entering heaven before the Pharisees who were not facing theirs.
Once again, Jesus is correct!
First, regarding the description of your stance within the church, then it is clear that you rightly wish to avoid the problem of polarized debates and “positions” whereby partisan factions develop that a priori reject one another’s points of view out of hand in the name of often unexamined interests and agendas that are often more political than doctrinal; in such scenarios, “right relating” typically degenerates into “clique relating” whereby opposing cliques “speak past” one another without listening to each other and where, in any case, a sophist rhetoric of false labelling of the other has replaced any “Roman rhetoric” that seeks a true appreciation of what the other is saying so that debate can be genuinely advanced. We could tabulate some contrasts here, as follows:
|Right Relating (“Trinitarian” Relating)||Distorted Relating (“Clique” Relating)|
|Authentic Intimacy of Shared Positives that Seeks to Include Outsiders in Community||Counterfeit Intimacy of Shared Negatives that
Seeks to Exclude Outsiders from Community
|Preserves Unity of the Spirit||Degenerates Into Factions|
|Roman Rhetoric that Seeks Truth through Interrogation of Self and Others||Sophist Rhetoric that Falsely But Cleverly Attacks Opposing Factions|
|True Redemptive Understanding of Others||Inauthentic Defamatory Labelling of Others|
|Dissolves Acids of Suspicion/Hostility||Creates Ever-Increasing Suspicion/Hostility|
|Genuine Expanding Dialogue Between Multiple Traditions with Genuine Listening||Inauthentic Polarized “Debates” in Which
Opponents Shout-Over/Speak-Past Each Other
A guest post by David Matcham
History shows that institutions corrupt their very reason for existence (the French have a way of saying that too). On a cataclysmic scale, the Reformation bears witness to this fact, and the Church isn’t the only institution to fall victim to crafty human ways of avoiding what it is there for.
Clyde Reid wrote in 1966 of how unconscious motivation works at a group level to lock congregations into utterly superficial modes of functioning, primarily shown through superficial relationships.
Among many other piercing insights, he observes, “The adult members of churches today rarely raise serious religious questions for fear of revealing their doubts or being thought of as strange. There is an implicit conspiracy of silence on religious matters in the churches. This conspiracy covers up the fact that the churches do not change lives or influence conduct to any appreciable degree.”
But this is the “ouch” that exposes self-protection, a form of sin that blatantly refuses the loving sovereign providence of God. We’ve created such manic activity in our “church life” that actually help us avoid our relational responsibility whilst masquerading as religious work!
The reason why we avoid authentic relationship/openness is because we fear it. We fear upsetting the apple-cart, confronting, anger, etc. We are not open because we’re afraid of what others will think of us. And thus we never spend time seriously thinking what God’s thoughts are.
When the Church beholds the glory of Christ, she will become the radiant Bride. That day will come, because God is faithful, but Church, Ministers, Vicars, Leaders, we must think deeply about this. Not to make our churches look good, but to set our churches free.
God loves the Church. The gates of Hell will not prevail against it. But every generation must learn again what it means to behold His glory.
You’ve only got one life. Live it for the One you were made for.
The best marriage advice whether novice or expert….(I say “expert” advisedly)!