Have you ever said, or heard someone else say, “That preacher is too negative. He is always criticizing something or somebody. Why can’t he just say what he is for, and not keep harping all of the time on the things he is against?”
Well, the fact is, it is impossible to really be for anything without being against something. Imagine someone saying:
“I’m for peace, but I have nothing against war.”
“I think it’s very important that we always be truthful, but if someone wants to tell lies, I’m not going to say anything against that.”
“I strongly believe we should love our fellowman, but I wouldn’t want to be critical of someone who displays hatred.”
We could go on and on. The point is obvious – standing FOR truth and right will always necessitate standing AGAINST error and wrong. That is axiomatic. But let a preacher plainly and specifically expose false doctrine or sin (even though he “speaks the truth in love”), and you may hear a complaint from someone about negative preaching.
It is interesting to speculate what would have been the reaction of such people, had they lived in New Testament times and heard John the Baptist rebuke the apostate Jews, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
Or Jesus, as he castigated the self-righteous leaders, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”
Or Stephen, “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.”
Or Paul, “O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?”
Or Peter, “There were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies.”
Or John, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
Negative? Absolutely! These men (speaking and writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) exposed and opposed sin and error in very strong language. It was the only way they could consistently “contend for the faith.”
While we are expected to be gentle, meek and longsuffering in our attempts to reach the lost, this certainly does not allow us to overlook error. Real positive preaching cannot be done without being negative about some things.
Let’s not let the compromising spirit that prevails in the religious world today affect us to the point that we are ashamed of (or worse, opposed to) those who courageously expose and refute that which is contrary to God's revealed will.
- Leonard White