The title of the article is "The Cross and Criticism." It originally appeared ten years ago in the Journal of Biblical Counseling.
I live and pastor in a culture of confident, well-educated high achievers. That is not a bad thing. In fact there are many positive goods to be derived in such a milieu. However, because we are fallen creatures even the good things with which God has blessed us can become occassions for sin.
One example I have noticed is a tendency toward a critical spirit. Certainly this can be said about most people in most places. Nevertheless, in my first visits to the mainline last summer I was prepared (or warned) by some thougtful folks about the active willingness among many to offer direct and frequent criticisms.
While I have been blessed with a wonderful "honeymoon" as pastor in this particular field of ministry I have nevertheless seen glimers of this tendency toward criticism. To be fair, however, I must add that I have not experienced it to be worse than any other place I have been blessed to serve. Also, in the interest of fairness, I am as likely as anyone to grumble and criticize.
We know from God's Word that we have a responsibility to correct and even rebuke our brothers and sisters when they are in error or pursuing a sinful path. The key is to correct or rebuke in a way that is truly redemptive and not merely an excuse to "vent."
The article mentioned above has some wonderful insights on how to offer criticism in a godly way. They are:
- I see my brother/sister as one for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11; Heb. 13:1)
- I come as an equal, who also is a sinner (Rom. 3:9, 23).
- I prepare my heart lest I speak out of wrong motives (Prov. 16:2; 15:28; 16:23).
- I examine my own life and confess my sin first (Matt. 7:3-5).
- I am always patient, in it for the long haul (Eph. 4:2; 1 Cor. 13:4).
- My goal is not to condemn by debating points, but to build up through constructive criticism (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 (2 Tim. 2:24-25).