Friday, June 18, 2010

Responding to the Critical Spirit

“Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you.”

~2 Corinthians 7:2-3 (NIV).

It is a common understanding, broadly, that Paul is responding in this letter to the church at Corinth—particularly in passages like the two verses shown above—by locating, and dealing with, the critical spirit.

Some time ago I wrote an article in some parts attending to the critical spirit.

What Does It Look Like, this Critical Spirit?

“Do not quench the Spirit.”

~1 Thessalonians 5:19 (NKJV).

It appears the critical spirit is one that was alive and well in the Pharisee—and not just the people who hung Jesus to that tree. The Pharisee moves amongst us still. He or she is ‘known’ by a particular situational modus operandi regarding criticism not belying love-and-truth, for example, making wide sweeping out-of-context engagements without care for the manner of their receipt.

There are millions of ‘ardent Christians’ who operate in Pharisaic ways—exhibiting the critical spirit—especially in their identification and condemnation of others’ ‘heresy.’ It is rather ironic, then, for the peaceable Christian to observe certain theologians noting the critical spirit as illustrative of its own form of ‘latent heresy!’[1]

There is an absence of accountability to it. This is, of course, foreign in relation to our operant God—a Deity whom requires of us accountability.

Neither does the person exhibiting the critical spirit identify the issue constructively, nor do they hold themselves up as accountable examples—in real terms—to follow.

Their flimsy, cutting and Spirit-quenching feedback is not based upon a fundamentally critical ingredient: the necessity to build up.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

~1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV).

The ‘Spirit-Filled’ Christian

The person claiming to be ‘Spirit-filled,’ and I’ve seen many who indeed claim to be, should not be seen five thousand miles in proximity to the critical spirit—the non-constructive bitter ‘dig’ or condemnatory spiritual glance.

People who have the Spirit of God alive and well, functioning within them, do not fire off lethal darts with gay abandon. They generally always check their desire to issue constructive feedback, viz. the truth, with a heart-desire to build up and never tear down.

They are people certainly of spiritual principle that aligns both ways, always colluding with an accountability rooted directly in the God of their salvation.

Constructive, edifying and admonishing feedback, then, is always able to be issued in love. This is illustrative of what will separate the real Spirit-filled Christian from the wannabe.

Finally, the Response

How do we respond to people—Christians—who throw their flaming darts? It’s a good question without a definitive answer. I just note that their credibility as God’s own is on shaky ground as we’re personally concerned.

And our response must always be graceful, even in quiet reactive admonishment. Two wrongs do not make it right. It is our turn—and our responsibility—to turn to the right, no matter the harm done.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Sinclair B. Ferguson, J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology. Electronic Ed. (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000, c1988), S. 291.

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