Moving From Fuzzy Platitudes to Concrete Praise

Moving From Fuzzy Platitudes to Concrete Praise

Yesterday we saw wisdom in commending that which is most commendable in people. What is it that makes something commendable?

All beauty is rooted in Jesus Christ, who is the flawless standard of everything good. We should praise that which is praiseworthy, and that which is most praiseworthy is the Father’s beloved pre-eminent son in whom he is well-pleased. All praiseworthy qualities and characteristics originate with him, are derived from him, and mimic him in one way or another.

One way to give God-centered praise to those who are not God is to commend the image of Christ that is being imaged forth from them, for we are all made in his image.

Imitating Jesus pleases God, especially when it stems from reproduction of the life of Christ in a person transformed by faith. But we can also commend the echoes of Jesus in unbelievers in the same way that we can commend small children for doing good even before those children come to faith in Jesus. Even unbelievers can demonstrate things like patience, generosity, gentleness, courage, and scores of other qualities originating in Jesus. Jesus is the most patient, generous, and courageous being in existence.

Affirmations of Christlikeness are more precise than ubiquitous smiley faces (just what are they smiling about?) or other generic, vanilla, fuzzy, imprecise, and dubious compliments that weakly approve something vague. Let us be specific with our affirmations. “Nice job” – what was nice about it? The diligence? The initiative? The thoroughness? “Gnarly, dude” – what was so gnarly about it? The enthusiasm? The joyfulness? “That’s remarkable” – just what is it that is so remarkable? Remark about it! Name it.

Commending the most commendable is a matter of commending the qualities of Jesus, qualities with which he is filling the earth. His qualities are everywhere, in some measure in everyone. And while those qualities and those persons who demonstrate them become even more God-honoring through faith and through being sanctified for greater and greater holy living, even in their most rudimentary forms, Christlike qualities are Christlike, and he gets honor when we notice his workmanship and commend it for what it is: commendable.

Our commendations of the people around us are not mainly about the people around us, but about the work of God in them. To spot the work of God in people requires us to be familiar with the mind and Spirit and character of Christ revealed through the authoritative accounts of him in the Bible.

Christian character mimicked in the lives of unbelievers is better than nothing, but true Christlikeness is true life, the outworking of the life of Christ himself, as a person abides in him by faith. It is true life, not merely a lifestyle. Just as a living hamster is more than merely an assembly of its parts, Christlikeness is more than a compilation of attributes, components, earmarks, capacities, or distinguishing features. Even so, just as a hamster can be examined in its various parts, Christlikeness can be held up to the light to have its various facets sparkle with brilliance.

Practicing affirmation is not optional. If a person affirms good things wherever he spots them, he will experience one kind of consequences. If he fails to affirm, he will face another kind. That’s tomorrow’s third and final installment in this series.

Sam Crabtree is executive pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church and the author of Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God (Crossway, 2011).