Christian Criticism

I’m not very good at receiving compliments as my wife can attest.  I’m equally not very good at receiving criticism.  I suppose this makes me like a wooden dummy that just spits out information where people are listening or not.  Thankfully, the Lord sanctifies me and conforms me more and more to be like Christ.  I’ve grown in these areas, but I still have much growing to do.

Funny thing is, I don’t really mind the criticism…later on.  In other words, it’s the initial receiving that can give me a hard time.  This makes a really good case for keep Jesus and His Gospel at the fore front of your thought life.  For example, preaching yourself the Gospel daily and more.  If our minds are not set on such things how are we going to grow in the Lord with each other?

One of the things that bothers me is that so often our criticisms of each other, whether instructive, corrective or encouraging, are often isolated.  They are isolated to small groups or one-on-one relationships.  There are certain topics where this should be so, should all topics be as such?  My point here is not to figure out which topic is which.  Rather, I want to point to what is most likely an encouragement to such isolation and a barrier to openness.  How we give and receive criticism.

Maybe it’s just me, but there is something missing in the local church family.  Everyone is always “doing great!”  I can’t help but think this is partially because we don’t always know how to talk to each other nor how to receive others’ words.  In some ways my ideas here are going beyond just criticism.  This still has to do with how we interact and how personal we take things.  So I think the below information can be helpful.

Take a look at how Dr. Alfred J. Poirier gives a simple summary of giving criticism.  I don’t think it’s necessary to only apply the below to the one giving the criticism, however, when we receive criticism we may not always be ready.

GIVING CRITICISM GOD’S WAY

I see my brother/sister as one for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11).

Keep on loving each other as brothers (Heb. 13:1).

I come as an equal, who also is a sinner.

Are we any better than they? Not at all. For there is no one righteous…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:9,23).

I prepare my heart lest I speak out of wrong motives.

All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD (Prov. 16:2).

The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil (Prov. 15:28).

A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction (Prov. 16:23).

I examine my own life and confess my sin first.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5).

I am always patient, in it for the long haul (Eph. 4:2).

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Cor. 13:4).

My goal is not to condemn by debating points, but to build up through constructive criticism.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may give grace to those who listen (Eph. 4:29).

I correct and rebuke my brother gently, in the hope that God will grant him the grace of repentance even as I myself repent only through His grace.

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth… (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

This is the sidebar taken from the article The Cross and Criticism by Dr. Alfred J. Poirier, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Peacemaker Ministries.  It’s a good article to read and think about.  It goes into more on the topic on receiving criticism of which I need to get better.

Instead of being bothered by certain approaches like I’ve said above, I’m going to attempt to be more open, ask tougher questions and be more kingdom minded rather than individualistic.  Seriously, though, maybe it’s just me.

For what it’s worth…

Mark

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tagged as , , in Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,theology

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Red Monkey December 28, 2008 at 10:41 am

Great post. This is something I constantly have to work on as I always seem to be disagreeing with someone over something. Edward Fitzgerald said, “after the first contradiction it is ourselves, and not the thing, we defend.”

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