Prey to Being Positive?

As I round off my preparation for three sermons this Lord’s Day, I’ve been forced to think again of the ‘dangers of being positive’ or ‘criticism for being negative’.
If I’ve already raised your eyebrows, I wonder why that is? Perhaps you’ve fallen foul of some grumpy, gloomy pastors, or been lorded over by elders with hypercritical personalities.
Others may have been tainted by Peale’s ‘Power of Positive Thinking.’ Over-optimism is rife in parts of the West. Educationalists ban criticism as cultural taboo. Self-esteem gurus feed egos with applause.
At risk of being ‘jaundiced against joy’, I’ve often remarked how the ‘positivity police’ who cry ‘stop being negative’, are often among the most negative people I know. They say cheer up but rarely smile themselves.
To get onto something of substance, you might be wondering what has generated this blog on ‘prey to being positive.’ Well Scripture, I hope you notice, is supersaturated with negatives.
A fine example is the text that set me off. “Do not be conformed to this world”. To discover, discern, do & delight in God’s entire will, as living sacrifices, we must refuse to march to the drumbeat of our age.
Paul keeps step with Christ who was negative with no fault. “I am the Way, the Truth, & the Life. No-one comes to the Father but by me.” Not for negativity sake but to clarify truth & offer no escape.
Come to think of it, as John Murray points out, on the text of Romans 12.2, the negative of Paul is due to realism about sin. The problem with incessant grinning optimism is that it is totally unrealistic.
Apart from clarifying truth, promoting godliness & alerting us to sin, is another reason Stuart Olyott stated in an old article. Sinful human beings seem to understand negative better.
Heretics and ecumenists of course hate precision and definition. OK, I agree, truth does divide, but only in such a way that differentiates orthodox from heterodox [& 1st, 2nd & 3rd Bally-go-backwards!]
Let us also remember, or being true to my assertion, let us also beware, so as never to forget, the Gospel of Christ also unites us in truth, and builds up One Holy Apostolic Church in our faith, hope & love.
There’s clear ‘Theologic’ in Sinai’s prohibitions. ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me …make for thyself any graven image …kill …steal …covet.’ We do tend to do these things so God says don’t!
How fascinating, too, that there are notable, ‘stand-out’, positives, like ‘Keeping the Sabbath Holy’ & ‘Give honour to your parents.’ How twisted we become when we turn these into negatives!
Just in case you think it’s just Moses, with a gloomy personality, the Sermon on the Mount, where liberals strangely feel at home, continues in the same vein, with a healthy string of negatives.
“Do not think I have come to abolish the law & the prophets.” The unrighteous are warned “you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Swearing is banned “Do not take an oath at all.” “Do not resist.”
If I’m now in danger of being too negative, never preach heaven if you do not warn of hell. Never preach blessing unless you threaten curse. Don’t omit wrath when you assure ‘no condemnation’.
I hope I’m not guilty of overstating the case. If anything, I think, the opposite is true. The sparkling Gospel diamond of God’s Grace of God in Christ, is best off-set by the black velvet backdrop of judgment.
So, in signing off for the Sabbath, let’s retain our biblical balance. John 14.6 speaks of the uniqueness of our King. Calvary’s ‘it is finished’ the very best negative that the world has ever heard.

5 Comments

  1. Robert Copeland September 26, 2016 at 7:00 pm #

    Good. At the risk of being slightly negative, let me just mention that the author of The Power of Positive Thinking is N.V. Peale (NOT Peel). 2nd. When referring to the Creed, why leave out one of the essential words? “one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” (Don’t you just hate people who are negative and critical?) 😉

    • Andrew Kerr September 28, 2016 at 5:36 am #

      Thanks Robert. In response first I’ll edit the Name, second my aim was not to make a verbatim quotation & third yes I do love such helpful, well-intended, negatives – genuine criticism helps us be more precise, humble & cautious next time out!

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