Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Giving and Receiving of Criticism as "Bearing With One Another"

I figure the raison d'etre of both discernablogger-type fundamentalists and quasi-pomo, pseudo-liberal rethink-everything Christians is really the same thing: complaining about the other. My friend Bill calls this syndrome I Have Identified the Problem, and It Is You.

Remember, brothers -- all of you, conservative or liberal, young or old, MacArthur fan or Miller fan -- a prophet speaks from the inside. Let us not shrink back from calling each other to repentance, to speaking the truth in love, but let's remember we speak prophetically to us, not them.

And let us not shrink back from our brother's reproof if it is offered in sincerity. He may be wrong, he may be overzealous, but his energy merits consideration.

It is not "stoning" to biblically criticize another, as one blogger said of another's efforts recently. What a silly charge that makes the receiver appear an oversensitive child and belittles the gravity of, you know, actually being killed by having rocks thrown on you. If a blog post critical of you is akin to stoning in your eyes, you need help with perspective.

Judgment of one's speech and actions is not condemnation. Test all things; cling to what is good. If the criticism is truly malicious or just wrong: dismiss it. But not before then. And certainly not with some self-glorifying notion that one is above the reproof of fellow Christians. Don't think strangers have the right to criticize you? Then don't post thoughts in public for strangers to read. It is no Christian virtue to expect privileges without responsibilities.
"We often think we have no need of anyone else's advice or reproof. Always remember, much grace does not imply much enlightenment. We may be wise but have little love, or we may have love with little wisdom. God has wisely joined us all together as the parts of a body so that we cannot say to another, 'I have no need of you.' "

- John Wesley
We critics ought to seek to read others through the lens of charity. Many times the ability to read someone's words in a bad light does not equal an imperative to do so. Instead of first asking our brother why they said or believe something so stupid, let's ask ourselves if perhaps we're reading him incorrectly or uncharitably.

We receivers of criticism ought to lend our critics the respect they may be denying us. Respond to questions or criticism in good faith, even if briefly. If our interlocutors prove malicious or disputationally vain, we can then move along. Yes, yes, by all means, don't feed the trolls. But seeking to clarify, elaborate, or winsomely rebut seems a decent way to rhetorically give your shirt to the guy asking for your coat.

But let's honor Christ by attempting to bear with one another. The gospel has identified the problem, and it is us.

"Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor."
-- Romans 12:10b


Bill Kinnon said...

Only in the west could someone compare criticism with stoning. How might they see crucifixion then?

Jared said...

We hear it all the time, don't we? "They're crucifying me!"
No, they're not. They're giving you a hard time. Notice the difference. ;-)

I blame John Lennon's "Ballad of John and Yoko."

SnatchedFromTheFire said...

Appreciate this word. Seems a call to both maturity as believers (which the bible certainly calls us all to) as well as humility. Years ago i remember a sermon from Swindol about Shimei cursing David as an illustration of rebuke or reproff from those who we feel have no 'right' to do so. Your post has fleshed this idea out even further for me - many thanks.

Jason said...

Great post, Jared. Right on the mark.

Matthew Robbins said...

Timely and dead-on, Jared.

Bill Kinnon said...

Lennon at least saw it as a trajectory. "The way things are going, They're going to..." And, in some ways he was prophetic - if one sees crucifixion as a form of murder.

Dumbing down the horror of stoning or the crucifixion to a matter of "feelings hurt" is simply evil. In my never humble opinion, of course.

Jared said...

Bill, you know what?, I hadn't even thought of that. His murder, I mean. I was just joking, of course, but I think maybe you (and Lennon) are on to something there.

Stanley Markowski said...

Someone once told me that I shouldn't criticize the Church because they are Christ's bride and you wouldn't criticize a friend's wife. Now i think there are some theological problems, as well as a misunderstanding of the analogy, with that concept.

I do think we are called to criticize/exhort/analyze one another especially when it comes to ministry and theology so that we can help one another serve and love God best. It just needs to be done in love and charity as you point out.

Jonathan Shradar said...

Jared -appreciate the heart behind a post like this. Thank you for being reasonable and faithful to the gospel.

Jen said...

Yes and amen.