Have you noticed how little discernment is demonstrated by today’s “discernment ministries”? And how little love and grace?
George D. Watson, a 19th-century Methodist Episcopal evangelist, once wrote: “Discernment by itself is like a razor in the hands of a lunatic. The sharper the instruments, the greater need of brain in the surgeon that handles them; and power to detect sin needs fathomless humility and boundless love to render it useful.”
Watson’s marvelous essay, A Critical Spirit, offers a recovering legalist like me some valuable insight into the “censorious spirit” that plagues us – to the point of arguing that such gracelessness is evidence of divine grace working in our fleshly hearts:
“There seem to be certain weaknesses, and ugly, disagreeable infirmities, latent in the soul that nothing even develops till he becomes religious, and sometimes the more intense the religion the more glaring are these infirmities. There is nothing disagreeable in handling a piece of dry wood, but if you undertake to make the wood pass into a live coal of fire then will develop the unpleasant concomitant of smoke, and soot, and ashes, which would never have been known but for the process of burning, and there is something like this in the soul’s transition from a state of nature to that of the pure, burning love of God, and though all souls do not manifest the same disagreeable things, yet, as God’s grace is burning us through, it seems inevitable that there will be a smoke in the shape of some religious infirmity.”
And this on the arrogant conceit that we are God’s gift to the unenlightened:
“He lives under the one supreme thought that he came into the world for no other purpose than to set people right. If he was not always reproving something, or pitching into something, he would think himself false to his calling. His opinion concerning any church, or any association of Christian workers, or any preacher, or evangelist, or writer, or book, is already made up in advance, and labeled like so many bottles of poison on the shelves of his judgment, and he is not going to change his opinion concerning any of these things, and does not want any further light, but knows enough already to settle him in his views.”
I encourage you to read the entire essay, which I’ve posted over at CounterCulture.
Related post: Self-appointed judges