I know. It’s harsh.
Most of us appreciate a good inspirational quote now and then. We share them on our Facebook page or via our Twitter feed. I do it. It might be an encouraging or thought provoking quote from a book we’re reading or something we heard. Christians really like to quote dead missionaries and theologians. Many of these quotes are wonderful and are worth noting and pondering.
Many of them, while they seem nice at first glance, are rather concerning and problematic. Interestingly enough, while the person posting them usually means well and intends the quote to be a gospel affirming quote (in the Christian context), they are not always that great. Of course, much of this depends one’s definition of “gospel affirming”.
Here is an example of a quote that came up on my Facebook feed today. Have a look at it, then I’ll tell you what I think about it.
If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love. – Amy Carmichael
First things first. I have no idea of the context in which this quote was originally said or written. It could be that my reaction would be tempered if I had the full context. But I don’t and no one who reads the quote does either. All we have is the quote as it stands.
I think it is bad. Actually, to be honest, I think it is a damaging quote. I can see the potential, but stated the way it is – Yuck.
Now, if we could point the finger at someone who is constantly characterized by everything mentioned in the quote I guess someone could argue that this person has not yet tasted Calvary love (which, for the record, means Jesus’ love shown in what he said, did, and, ultimately, his death on the cross).
However, the quote seems to suggest that any one of those traits would mean an absolute lack of knowing Calvary love. Nothing. Nada. Rien du tout.
So then, I know nothing of Calvary love.
You see, there are times when the praise of others elates me.
There are times when the blame of others depresses me.
There are times when I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself.
There are times when I love to be loved more than I love to love.
There are also times when I love to be served more than I love to serve.
I get it. It is quite freeing to be able to live daily without feeling the need for the praise of others or feeling depressed when blamed or criticized.
It is also freeing to love for love sake and not expecting something in return.
And yes, there is also great joy to be found in serving others.
Why then does the quote rub me the wrong way?
It’s the end of the quote that ruins it for me. To have issues with those things means to “know nothing of Calvary love.”
Really? Is that really true? Nothing? Not even a little something? No baby steps? No figuring things out? No growing? Nope. Nothing.
If being perfect is required so that it can be said of us that we “know Calvary love” then we’re all pretty much screwed.
(Side note – what does it even mean here to “know” Calvary love? Does it mean having a perfect understanding of it? Who can even claim that!)
The potential. I think the quote has potential if only it had been worded a bit differently.
If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, there is freedom in Calvary love.
When the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; when I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; when I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, Calvary love compels me to find my identity and rest in Jesus.
If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, it is a reminder of how much I still need to know and grow in my understanding of the depth of Calvary love.
But to say that one knows nothing! Such a statement is over the top and, not to mention, not really gospel affirming.
How about you? What do you think about the quote? Do you have some insight that might help us here? Have you ever come across a quote that somehow just didn’t sound quite right?