Do you have the spiritual gift of whining*?
I used to be a full-time film reviewer. In other words, I got paid to criticise.
I tried to approach film reviewing as a commentator, rather than as a critic. But my job was still to point out the good and bad.
Yes, you might call that “getting paid to criticise”.
Plenty of us don’t need to be paid, though. We’re more than happy to criticise. And why be limited to movies? There’s a whole world out there, full of stuff we can complain, whinge or whine about.
Okay, that’s unfair. Not all criticism is complaining, whingeing or whining. But how often do we allow our disagreement with or objection to something to become a tidal wave of negativity? One that offers nothing except having a go.
News flash: Christians can be whingers
Church can be an excellent place for criticism. I know this might come as a shock but Christians can be highly critical of things. And each other.
Indeed, how many times have you heard someone at church whinge about the sermon? Or complain about morning tea? Or carry on about how they are the only humble servant in the entire Congregation?
And … How many times have others heard you (or me) go on about any of those things?
And … What did it achieve? Did anything change? Was anything improved?
How about this for an outlandish suggestion: why don’t we have a go at not having a go?
Instead, can we replace our love of complaints about what we demand church should be, with a love of what God wants the church to be?
1. What’s the point?
Have you showed up for church, sat down, sung, prayed, listened … and realised you don’t know why you’re doing any of it? Not knowing what you’re doing at church is a surefire recipe for finding things to complain about, because your lack of purpose will fuel dissatisfaction. There are many things we could put forward as reasons for going to church but, at very least, we should be there to glorify God and Jesus. Verses such as Romans 12:1-2, Colossians 3:17 or 1 Peter 4:9-11 make it clear that those who have given their lives to Jesus are to do everything for Him, in order to praise, worship and revere God. That’s the framework of a Christian’s life at all times, so why should church gatherings be any different? Strip back the various ways, shapes and forms which churches can take, and what’s left? Glorifying God and His son Jesus, as a minimum requirement.
2. No body’s perfect
Christianity in the New Testament is referred to as a shared experience, not an isolated one. Check out the letter to the Ephesians and note how many times “the body of Christ” refers to those who love and serve Jesus. Not as individuals, but as a collective. For many of us, the most regular and reliable expression of being in that body is through attending a local church. That’s a community where we can live out the supportive fellowship granted by being in Christ’s corporate body. But, well, we shouldn’t forget that although Christ Jesus himself is perfect, those invited into his body are not. While we can be saved from the consequences of our sins, our human bodies and minds won’t be fully cleansed of sin’s taint until Jesus’ return (see passages such as Romans 7:14-25 or 1 Corinthians 15). In the meantime, churches will remain imperfect gatherings of God and Jesus’ people. Remember that we are one of those imperfect people, when next we are tempted to criticise or complain.
3. Is it worth it?
This is more common sense than divine wisdom or teaching: Is it really worth bringing up, what you are bringing up? Could your complaint or criticism be a personal preference, more than a significant issue? Do you know the difference? Don’t hear me wrong: you might be on the right track, because there are plenty of areas for improvement at churches. But before you raise something with someone at church, are you running it through the filters provided by the various fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26)? Imagine what might happen to us, as critical Christians, if we yearned to bring more spiritual fruit into our church life.
4. Love and good deeds
Earlier, I mentioned that glorifying God and Jesus seems to be a minimum goal for what to expect out of a church service. But have you taken a look recently at Hebrews 10:24-25? My word, if you want a fantastic summary of what Christians should be doing when they’re at church, here it is: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day [of Jesus’ return] approaching.” Wow. How great is that? Rather than encourage each other to hate or complain or whinge or attack, followers of Jesus should be fired up about helping each other to love and perform godly actions. Oh, and when we combine the teachings about gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, the realisation is that we’re working together for God’s good purposes. With the specific skills and talents he’s given to all in the body of Christ. Together, not alone. Building up, not tearing down.
5. How about you?
What’s the thing about criticism, complaints, whinging and that sort of negative comment? Usually, they’re about everybody else and what they’re doing (or not doing). But what about us – you and me? How are we contributing to fellowship within the body of Christ? Are we even thinking about our place within it, and working with God’s Spirit to improve or enhance what we have to offer?
Perhaps some of the criticisms or whinging that we are firing at others, could be easily directed at us. But even if that’s not the case, challenging yourself to be part of the solution to a problem is a terrific place to start helping the body of Christ to be the united, harmonious, loving and inviting fellowship that God intends.
* There is no such thing as the spiritual gift of whining, although it often seems like there could be amongst Christians