Anti-fragile Christianity

Just a little follow-up on yesterday’s post on anti-fragility. Taleb’s book hasn’t gotten to this issue yet, and maybe it won’t, but it occurred to me how this concept could be applied to our own spiritual lives.

The classic question – why does God let bad things happen to good people? To take a specific, famous example from the Bible itself – why does God take the devil’s challenge and allow Job to be tested even if he is a godly man?

The answer isn’t that God is a closet sadist, eager to let his people suffer. Instead, I think it’s tied up in anti-fragility. God knows you need to grow spiritually, and suffering makes you stronger. That, in effect, we need it to be better.

Check out the end of Job, Chapter 42:

Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.

Judging Others

Does the title of the post make you uncomfortable? Especially if you are a Christian? It makes me uncomfortable. I’m supposed to leave the judging to God, right?

Jesus was certainly judgmental. He offered salvation, but he wasn’t scared to call people out on what they were doing wrong. He didn’t tell the woman at the well “hey, you’re terrific just like you are” after discussing her checkered past. No, he told her to “Go, and sin no more.” He was kind, AND he judged her. Judging her was part of his act of kindness. We like to apply the idea of “What would Jesus Do?” to how we live our lives, but I’ve never heard the idea that judgment is included in that application. The WWJD fad is more about kindness, doing good to others, being the picture of benevolence, as if Jesus was just out there petting animals like a Disney princess, and we’ve got to emulate that.

Christians certainly don’t have a monopoly on judgment nowadays, anyway. It’s a human activity. But I would argue it’s the wrong kind of judgment. Whatever you think of Ryan Lochte, you can’t deny that the man was judged in the court of world opinion. We undeniably live in an era when people are judged, not by God’s standards, but by the world’s evolving standards. In the good old U. S. of A, you can lose your job for the wrong tweet. This weakens the truth of the oft cited, “Welp, it’s a free country” when it’s de facto censorship and people are scared to say the wrong thing.

But whom should we most fear being judged by – God or man? And what happens when we’ve set up a society where we fear the judgment of the tweeting hordes more than the judgment of God?

And who can provide that judgmental (and not always gentle) voice when it’s needed most? We don’t all have a nearby well where we get to meet Jesus face to face. We go to get living water at our local sanctuary. But if a church family does nothing but tell you, “you’re ok just as you are,” and doesn’t advise you to go and sin no more, the church might be lacking in ability to really guide and grow a Christian heart. Adding to the danger, if the church has defined sin down so that nothing qualifies as sinful anymore, what hope does a Christian have of hearing the correcting voice of God?

Questions, questions. I believe it takes courage to provide guidance (judgment, gasp) to your fellow Christian. It wasn’t just Jesus who judged. Paul wasn’t scared to rebuke those who had strayed, and neither was Peter. I don’t believe we should spend our time in church constantly telling our fellow members what we think is wrong with their lives. But I think an important element of what a church actually is is lost if no voices exist to provide the correction God intends.

And even more frightening, what happens when that voice of correction comes at you? It takes even more courage, compared to offering criticism to a fellow Christian, to not be defensive when someone points out sin in your own life. Before blowing up at someone offering loving Christian criticism, hear them out, do some self-examination, and bounce their words off of what you can glean from God’s own word.