“You are the light of the world. … No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)
There’s this dating advice offered by misogynists that says the way to get someone’s romantic attention is to insult them, to make them self-conscious. It’s called negging, as in negativity.
It’s hard to imagine a philosophy more opposed to the gospel than that. Except that so much of Christianity looks similar. Trading on a sense of inner ugliness to open folks up to relationship.
A church member told their longtime friend about the loving and supportive community they’d found in our congregation. Troubled, the friend asked, “But are you being challenged to grow? Or is it just a feel-good church?”
The implication was clear. Feeling good and spiritual growth don’t go together. To progress in our faith, we need to be somewhere that isn’t so supportive, that isn’t so positive. We need a community that isn’t afraid to mention our spiritual muffin-top. Or tell us that we could stand to lose a few … sins.
It’s an attractive idea. (At least according to misogynists.) It tends to hook folks in.
But it’s not a path to growth. In my experience, growth comes when I’m in a relationship or community where I feel loved enough to try something new and difficult, when I feel good enough to risk failing. Or when I find enough acceptance in myself to leave a community that tries to tell me otherwise.
Deliver us from negativity masked as care.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.