So recently I've been spending a bit of time trying to identify what Christian growth looks like and it has led me to re-engage with an old problem with the way it is too often viewed.
What does a good day as a Christian look like? What does a day which I'm happy with look like. Well generally a good day is one which I don't look back on and identify loads and loads of things which I shouldn't have done. It's a day when I look back and don't cringe at the unkind word I said, don't wonder how much damage my selfish actions have caused, don't despair at my impatience, irrationality and anger. A good day is one where I haven't been unkind, impatient, harsh, unloving or cross.
Sounds ok doesn't it? Well the problem is that we are not simply called to not be unkind but to be kind. We are not simply called not to be impatient but to be patient. We are not simply called not to be cross but to be self controlled. You get the idea - we are called to be gentle and loving rather than just manage not to be harsh and unloving.
How you measure your holiness or growth really matters. If we measure on the basis of us managing to not do the stuff we're not meant to do then we will pull away from people. The best way to limit our unkindness, impatience etc is to limit our exposure to other people. After all it's easy to not be unkind if we don't see anyone all day.
On the the other hand if we measure on the basis of us doing what we're called to do then we will work hard to connect with people and really share lives with them knowing that it is only possible to show kindness, gentleness, self control, love etc in this setting. The best way to show kindness, patience etc is to increase our exposure to people.
It is therefore possible that growth could involve an increase in unkindness, harshness, impatience etc as we connect with people and find that as we try to show kindness, gentleness and impatience we also increase the chances of us failing.
Until we redress this view of growth people will continue to detach and the church will not grow more like Jesus but simply maintain its respectable front whilst it happily stagnates. Negative holiness is not what we're called to.