Focus on the Positive?
by Stuart DiNenno
There are some very popular reputedly Christian preachers today who constantly tell their followers that they should “focus on the positive.” It is not surprising that they don’t speak much of sin and repentance, as those things are “negative.” Of course, such a feel-good message has broad appeal but it is neither biblical nor beneficial.
First, Christians need to understand that positive and negative are not biblical categories. No one is ever commended in the Bible for being positive and no one is ever criticized for being negative, or vice versa. The biblical standard of what we should think and speak is according to the truth of whatever matter is being addressed. Therefore, the categories with which Christians primarily ought to be concerned are truth versus lies, not positivity versus negativity.
Second, consider this issue from only a practical standpoint. Would you ever go to a doctor of positivity who only examines you and conducts tests to find out what is right with your body but ignores what is wrong with it? How about a positive car repair shop that says: “We don’t talk about your car’s defects; we prefer to emphasize the good and let you know everything that is right with the vehicle.”
Everyone immediately recognizes the absurdity of such an approach in regard to bodily health and the operation of mechanical devices, but why is it that they cannot see that this is equally ridiculous in regard to spiritual and moral matters? How can the state of individuals, the church, and the nation be improved if we focus on the good but do not address the evil? I submit to you that this is precisely the problem today: Christian men are allowing evil to run rampant in our society because they refuse to face up to it and deal with it.
Third, think about how unbiblical such an approach is. If you know the Bible, you know that you can hardly find a page in it where wickedness is not addressed multiple times. How then can a religion that focuses solely or mostly on the good things be Christianity? Men can sprinkle it with a few Scripture verses and slap a Christian label on it but it is certainly not the religion of Jesus Christ. He was no grinning purveyor of positivity but “a man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3) who spent His earthly ministry exposing and correcting lies and wrongdoing, and speaking out vehemently in condemnation of those who taught and practiced the same.
This is not to say that we should go to the opposite extreme and have a morbid obsession with evil and its consequences, and never speak of all the blessings that God has graciously bestowed upon us. Throughout its pages the Bible carries a message of hope and redemption, and we are encouraged to think on things that are virtuous (Philippians 4:8). However, Christianity itself is a remedial program for the evil of man and we cannot remedy what we refuse to deal with, nor can we deal with what we avoid thinking or speaking about.
So while “focusing on the positive” may have mass appeal and make many people feel good about themselves, it certainly is not according to the example of God’s prophets and apostles who spoke innumerable times about sin, warned of both the temporal and eternal punishments for it, and repeatedly called men and nations to repentance. We cannot hope to save individuals from damnation and our nations from destruction, if we do not follow their example.