Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bearing with One Another: On the Giving and Receiving of Criticism

There is a lack of love when criticism amounts to complaining about "the other." My friend Bill calls this syndrome I Have Identified the Problem, and It Is You.

Remember, brothers -- all of us, conservative or liberal, young or old, MacArthur acolyte or Driscoll fanboy -- a prophet to the church 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.

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. Seeing criticism as never necessary is just as wrong as seeing it as always necessary. Seeing criticism as always evil, always wrong, always hateful and therefore not necessary is just as dangerous as the problem of self-elevating and insulating one's self from criticism.

Public judgment of public 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 we deem wrong, 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.

We will commend the gospel when we can give and receive criticism with charity and humility.

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


Big Bill said...

Jared, thank you so much for posting this. I admit that this entire discussion has been a great self-examination and growth process in accepting and displaying the love of Christ. It has humbled me in some areas and has also allowed me to connect with brothers and sisters whom I normally wouldn't connect with. I want to apologize for "jumping" on you...I saw your blog titled "Jesus was religious" and viewed it as a stick poking the hornet's nest. I appreciate your efforts and all that you do for the kingdom.

Bill said...

"The gospel has identified the problem, and it is us."

This is going into the quote rotation. Thanks Jared!