Editorial: Rethinking Negativity

In some places, and at some times, a spiritual premium has been placed upon a critical attitude. The ability to look for hidden motives is esteemed. The capacity to detect pride in another and to discern inconsistencies in the individual are viewed as admirable. Skill in attaching the worst possible interpretation to every action and word is applauded. And predictions about the soon departure or fall of another believer is called balanced judgment. When the prophetic utterance is fulfilled (at times by passive enabling), everyone is reinforced and smugly comfortable. All of this passes for spiritual discernment. Yet Paul says it is carnality, the seed of all Corinthian problems, and the opposite of the character of love (1 Cor 13).

Over 200 years ago, Jonathan Edwards, one of the great evangelists of that day and all time, made a plea for charitable judgments. In this eloquent phrase he embodied all the teaching of 1 Corinthians 13.

While the teaching of verse 7 is what is before us, it is vital to see that it is prefaced by at least two salient statements in verse 6.

Thinketh no evil. Love does not take account of the evil done to itself. It maintains a forgiving spirit amidst all and refuses to keep score or nurse grudges.

Rejoiceth not in iniquity. Love does not find any joy in sin: either discovering it or dwelling on it. It finds joy in truth and all that is embraced by that term.

What does it mean then to make charitable judgments? Are we to pretend that evil does not exist? Are we to hone the skill of naivete to a new level?

Look at verse 7 and note the four extremes to which love will go.

Love Covers: We are told that love bears all things. It does not needlessly expose the shortcomings of others; it does not magnify failures and infirmities. This, of course, does not mean an avoidance of issues which call for either assembly discipline ( ch 5) or personal confrontation (Matt 18). It embraces the myriad of interpersonal issues which love can accept.

Love has Confidence: Love believes all things. It gives others credit for the best possible motive. It seeks to see anothers actions in the best possible light. Until there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it will give another the benefit of the doubt. It eschews a cynical or skeptical spirit.

Loves Certainty: Love hopeth all things. Love never despairs of change or improvement. It never accepts failure as final. It takes character from the God of love who is also the God of all hope (Rom 15:13). We cannot change another; but we are linked with the God who is able to change both others and us. We may find, to our surprise, that change is more necessary on our part than on our brothers.

Loves Continuance: Love is never overwhelmed. It refuses to feel crushed by the circumstances but endures and prospers amidst them.

Would the assembly in which you are in fellowship, would the one in which I am in fellowship be the better or the worse if, instead of a judgmental attitude, we were marked by charitable judgments?