Recently, popular Christian blogger Tim Challies posted a scathing review of Ann Voskamp’s popular book One Thousand Gifts. Voskamp responded with an invitation over for dinner. After the invitation, Challies posted a public apology. In the apology, he several things that are incredibly easy to forget when writing reviews: Authors (and artists), who often read the reviews, are real people, and in the genres he and I cover (Christian books and Christian music, respectively), typically fellow believers in Christ. He said:
As I read back over my review of One Thousand Gifts I could see that I had neglected to remind myself while writing it that Voskamp is a real person and, not only that, but a sister in Christ. As a writer myself, I ought to remember that words are meaningful and revealing and in some way a part of the person who writes them. Every word comes from somewhere deep inside. Every word of One Thousand Gifts is a part of Voskamp just like every word I write is a part of me. There are no idle words in her book, no words that aren’t felt and meant. Yet in my review I had treated her as if her words mean less than mine, as if I was free to criticize her in a way I would not want to be criticized. …
There is value in engaging the ideas in any book, and especially a book about this Christian life, but the desire to uphold truth has no business coming into conflict with love for another person. Truth and love are to be held together as friends, not separated as if they are enemies. In my desire to say what was true, I failed to love. I ask Ann’s forgiveness for this.
It can be sobering to realize that real people are on the other end of the reviews we write and comments we post on blogs and social media. This is not, however, the most sobering part of the discussion. Jesus said:
A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:35-36)
He didn’t say “every particularly egregious idle word.” He said “every idle word.”
This is not to say, however, that every comment we make needs to be glowing and positive. Christians have an obligation to speak the truth. But we also have an obligation to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
This even applies in the extreme cases. Suppose a book or song expresses a heretical view, antithetical to the Gospel of Christ. We need to remember that God has saved many a heretic, and that we do not want to be the one to drive them farther from the faith. Suppose an author or artist is living a lifestyle completely inconsistent with the Bible’s guidelines for how a Christian should live. We need to remember that God has called many of the reprobate and backslidden to repentance.
I can’t say that there are no posts and comments that, in retrospect, I wish I could take back. But for several years, I have tried to write every review in such a way that I tell the truth, but tell it in a way that would not leave me ashamed to discuss the review with the artist.
Yet it is an even more sobering reality that we are called to write and speak in such a way that we need not be ashamed to discuss our words with God.Read More