There she stood in the center of the church foyer, all forty-eight inches of her, blonde head thrown back, soft arms outstretched above and behind her, a gold medal smile on her lightly freckled face. Surrounded by dozens, she was noticed only by a few, her mother, an elderly woman waiting for a ride home, and a handful of enthusiastic three year olds applauding for all they were worth. “Do it again!” a little boy cried, hopping up and down with anticipation. Curious, I paused to watch. Carrying a purse, Sunday school artwork, and a small stack of Bibles, the little girl’s mother sighed. No doubt she had caught this act before. Nonetheless, the woman smiled and waited patiently for her daughter. With careful and deliberate steps, the little gymnast walked ram-rod straight into the corner of the room, turned, and took a deep breath. Suddenly, thrusting her chest forward and her back end out, she struck the same pose as before. Looking like the most adorable little hood ornament you have ever seen, she had apparently “stuck” another incredible imaginary landing. I clapped with the three year olds and met her mother’s appreciative gaze.
All afternoon, I thought about the scene and wondered whether the little girl might actually become a seasoned and successful gymnast someday. I hope she does, and I hope she enjoys it just as much then as she does now. She stands a good chance if she learns an actual routine and keeps getting the kind of encouragement I witnessed. A little encouragement goes a long way. I understand the rising popularity of Christian satire. I’ve read part of Stuff Christians Like, and I follow Jon Acuff on Twitter. The man cracks me up, and I believe, as he does, that Christians should be able to laugh at themselves. However, I don’t believe that we should laugh at or openly criticize one another, especially when there are non-believers and seekers in the audience. Lately, it seems that “satirists” with far less skill, experience, and discernment than Jon Acuff are doing more damage than good with their careless words. There is a distinct difference between satire and criticism. Satire encourages us to take a look at ourselves; criticism strips the Body of Christ bare before the world. Satire encourages us to course correct; criticism condemns us. Satire takes the sting out of loving rebuke; criticism shames us. Satire can be done in love; criticism is selfish. Not sure where your words fit? Check your motives. Are you striving to encourage, instruct, and disciple others with your words, or are you venting frustration? Who is glorified by what you say?
Here’s the truth. None of us are perfect, and we won’t be until we get to Heaven and Jesus finishes the work that He began in us. In the meantime, the rhythm of God is different in each of our lives. He is busy teaching and molding us according to our gifting and circumstances, but we don’t learn the same lessons at the same time and so have to be careful about assuming that others should already know what God just taught us. So what if you know the whole routine and all they know is how to “stick” a landing? They’ll get there (and so will you) if we take the gloves off and learn to clap and encourage instead.