Well, it was a busy weekend, so I'm not going to do a post today. Instead, I thought I'd give some cleaning tips. Hah! Just kidding. I'm not really going to do that. But it was a busy weekend.
No, I am doing a post today. It's something I've been thinking about for a long time now--something I noticed in my recent re-reading of the New Testament. In my opinion the implications of these few verses are stunning and profound.
Many people are familiar with the story of the young man who came to Jesus and said, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
Jesus of course answered that he should keep the commandments--honoring his parents, refraining from adultery, dishonesty and so forth.
The young man replied that he had done all these things since his youth.
Then, the scripture says, "And Jesus, beholding him loved him..." That's important to note. Jesus's response to this young man's obedience was one of love and appreciation.
So what did Jesus do? Compliment him? Commend him? Promise him eternal life?
None of the above. He challenged him. "One thing thou lackest. Go they way and sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor..." (Mark 10:21).
The implications of this phrase are, as I said profound. Possibly revolutionary for teachers, parents, church leaders. Here was someone who had done good work. Instead of cheering him, Jesus challenged him to do better work and gave him what I call a threshold commandment--a personalized challenge that pushed him up to the very threshold of his faith.
Sadly, the young man was not ready to step through the threshold, unlike some of the others Jesus encountered who were able to stretch to that threshold (see here, for example).
But that's not the point. The point is that we live in a culture where we have compliment inflation. Everything that is average or mediocre is good. Everything that is good is great. Everything that's great is amazing. And so on.
And yes, I like compliments as much as anyone. But Jesus, who loves us more deeply and dearly than anyone did give compliments willy-nilly. He was honest--and he challenged those he loved.
I've learned with my voice students that I cannot compliment them into singing well. I cannot help them get over bad habits and develop good ones by praising them. I have learned that my writing group cannot help me polish my manuscript by telling me how awesome I am. They have to point out the flaws and challenge me.
And so it is with us spiritually. If we want to grow, we have to be challenged and pushed. We have to be stretched.
Don't get me wrong, I love to get a good compliment. And I think it's important to encourage and support But the key is to understand that this challenging is actually an expression of God's love.
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