One of my many embarrassing moments!
Second semester Greek class with Brother Raymond Kelcy, readings in the Gospel of John, overreliance on an English translation or interlinear text. "His disciples remembered that it is written, Zeal for your house will eat me up" (2:17). Translate it again! "...eat me up." Look carefully. Aha! "...eat me down." Not a big difference, but Brother Kelcy wanted us, as beginning Greek students, to notice it.
A popular speaker on the church growth circuit recently noted that "his church" had been "written up" by Elmer Towns as one of the ten most innovative churches in America. To ears whose heritage is in the Restoration movement, his terminology struck a strange dissonant chord. "Written up" is negative. Who in their right mind would brag about being "written up?" To be "written up" may be the end of usefulness in the Kingdom.
Analyze and apply.
Most of what we refer to as "written up" is more accurately "written down." The result is to diminish, not to enhance; to press down, not to lift up; to criticize, not to edify; to discourage more than to encourage. The careful distinction of Scripture and the unique (to me) use of a familiar term give me pause.
What would happen if every writer who devotes journal or bulletin space to "writing down" would devote an equal amount of space to "writing up?" What if every writer were required to write equally balanced amounts of "down" and "up?" What if for every "down" I observe in another's life I were obligated to look for an "up?" (A summary reading of Scripture reveals just such an obligation.) Brothers and sisters are "written down" for actions and statements from years ago, and no place is given for repentance "though they seek it carefully with tears."
Consider three examples.
- I have a brother in Christ with whom I disagree over several remarriage issues (my view is more restrictive than his), but he is involved in caring ministry to innocent AIDS victims, which few seem willing to undertake.
- Another brother has a view of the Holy Spirit that is too "New Age" for my comfort, but he has brought hundreds of teens closer to Christ and encouraged faithfulness in many young people who would likely have been otherwise lost to Christ and the church.
- A nearby brother and I disagree about the best methods and emphases for proclaiming the gospel to the lost, but we have shared some helpful, insightful discussions and studies of Scripture. What shall I write about these three brothers?
Truth has nothing to fear, but if I declare the whole truth about these brothers, I will not only write "down" our areas of disagreement and point out the differences, I will write "up" the positive aspects of their works. Write me "down" if you must--none is more aware of my flaws, failures, shortcomings, and inadequacies than am I, but will you also know me and love me enough to write me "up" for the good accomplished to God's glory? Write "down" the church if you must, but will you also give equal space to the fact that hundreds are being saved through her missions and evangelism efforts? Shame on me when I only write my brother "down." No brother is so wrong as to have no right, and no brother is so right as to be above wrong. Following the Golden Rule in this matter would drastically change the face of the church.
When Paul and his companions visited the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch, they were urged to speak "If you have a message of encouragement for the people" (Acts 13:15). I am not so naive as to think we should only preach the positive and ignore the negative. The Bible contains admonition, rebuke, instruction, and correction.
I am urging a balance.
Paul warned the Galatians (5:15) about spiritual cannibalism, an unhealthy practice both for the eater and the eaten. He describes the practice as "lacking love" (v. 14) and "fulfilling the lust of the flesh" (v. 16). The church ought not to be a "brother eat brother" place. Listen to God carefully. "If you backbite and eat one another down, be careful lest you be destroyed by each another." God's warning to us is "be careful lest you destroy yourselves." Biting and consuming one another destroys us all--both eater and eaten. When I "eat a brother down," I am also diminished.
The next time you get ready to "write someone up," please do it! Write about the good, the encouraging, the spiritual, the caring ministries, the souls saved, the hungry fed, the hurting helped to see hope and find a home with God forever. Let us love one another enough to encourage all the good we can! The next time you see the need to "write someone down," do it if you must, but proceed cautiously! Make certain your attitude does not reflect "the lust of the flesh" and that the result is not "eating a brother down." Write me "up;" write me "down." Both are needed. However, I, as you, am not all bad. Will you try to keep the "up" and "down" in approximately equal amounts?
Brothers and sisters, let us abhor evil, and cling to that which is good.
©, 2004, Robert J. Young. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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