With groundbreaking technological advances being made left and right, society has become obsessed with the idea of immediate information. And while the Information Age has provided plenty of information, it has also birthed something unintentional: misinformation. Regardless of whether the information is verifiable or absolutely ridiculous, everyone wants to be the first to know. Before our eyes, the Information Age has been warped into something entirely different: the Opinion Age.
The source of our information, and our misinformation, has shifted. Instead of first hearing the news from professionals, or experts in a particular field, we look to Twitter, to entertainment magazines, and to an endless Facebook newsfeed of articles that our friends found to be “worth the read” or “very moving.”
Soon, the basis of all opinion is just someone else’s opinion. Every man, woman, and child develops passionate and immovable opinions on subjects that they largely know nothing about. Some guy’s blog blows up the web because he formed an opinion, and he phrased it in a new, cynical way that hasn’t been used before. The pervading attitude of an entire culture is criticism.
How did this happen? We’ve been conditioned. Being critical gets results. Rudeness gets retweets. Who wants to read a tweet about Pharrell unless it involves him dressing like a park ranger? And, in all honesty, John Travolta seriously butchered Idina Menzel’s name at The Oscars. I watched the clip at least a dozen times myself, thinking, “YOU HAD ONE JOB, TRAVOLTA.”
We’re all guilty. That’s what makes this important. It’s something we all need to hear, myself included. Scripture specifically calls believers to “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” In a culture preaching tolerance, acceptance is a foreign concept. Tolerance is passive. Tolerance is endurance. Tolerance is teeth-gritting. Tolerance is easy. Acceptance, however, is active. Acceptance is welcoming. Acceptance is love. Acceptance is hard. Christ did not tolerate the woman at the well. The Father did not tolerate the prodigal upon his return home. Tolerance inspires apathy, not change. Change is brought about by sincere love. Change is brought about when we actively remember that Christ died for us, not when we surrendered our lives to Him, not when we started attending Sunday School, and not when we got our doctrine straight, but while we were still sinners.
Believers must possess critical minds, but not critical spirits. To understand the difference between the two is to understand the difference between iron sharpening iron (beneficial to both) and rubbing salt in a wound (detrimental to both). When believers speak the Truth in love, their words are grace rather than condemnation. There is still room for discernment and confrontation, as long as it is approached with humility and gentleness (Galatians 6.1-2).
The dividing factor between a critical mind and a critical spirit is the condition of the heart. To receive enjoyment from others’ failings (even if the failing is as comical as John Travolta’s), is to embrace division rather than unity. When the topic of conversation continually cycles back to Miley’s downward spiral, or Rob Bell’s latest controversial statement, or the Senate’s dangerous legislation, or the questionable wardrobe of that girl down the hall, or the pastor’s dry and lengthy sermon, or even the elasticity of the chicken strips, it should be recognized as a warning to monitor the condition of our own hearts.