35@35 #23: Criticism

ask-for-criticismTC's guidelines and principles of life #23: "When you criticize, you may be getting in the way of the Holy Spirit working in that person." As a pastor, I am never critical of any human being on the planet. Ever.

...but I know a guy named "CT" who can totally be critical of people. All the time. He's a terrible person.

See, what CT does (the terrible guy, totally not me) is he thinks he has the right to tell people the right and wrong way to do stuff.

What he keeps forgetting a couple things.

Here's what he forgets:

1. We can only keep people accountable to the level of relationship with them.

If I don't know you, I can't care about you more than just a general 'I love you as a person' or 'I love you as a fellow believer in Christ' kind of way. Until you know that I care about you as a person, you have no idea whether I have your best interest at heart when I start doling out 'advice'.

And CT has no idea what would help you grow closer to Jesus without having a relationship with you. Trying to keep people accountable cannot outstrip your personal relationship, because that's just being controlling, in a blind and ignorant way.

2. We can't keep somebody accountable without knowing their story.

What right do I...I mean does CT have to tell somebody what they should do if he doesn't even know their story? C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, talks about how foolish it is to judge people on the same set of rules. He talks about the principle that for me not to get high on heroin is not overly commendable, because I don't any kind of addiction or attraction toward that drug. But for somebody who spent years of their life getting high off it, not getting high is a huge deal, and God must be incredibly proud of them for their willingness to fight such a huge battle. Or if they got high once this week instead of 4 times, that would be awesome. Yet CT, in his foolishness, may think he has a right to say 'tsk, tsk' to the person who got high once instead of four times.

So when I start telling somebody what they should and shouldn't do without knowing their life story, I'm doing it out of a place of ignorance and uncaring. God interacts with us out of full knowledge and full love.

I want to be crazy enough to love people, and believe that the Holy Spirit can show people what God wants for them.

Jesus didn't generally around scolding or threatening people whose lives were a mess. He basically showed them what they were missing out on and invited them to stop missing out on it.

Do you know how many times Peter screwed up? And yet, at the end, Jesus is calling Peter to spread God's good news and care for his followers.

If Jesus is more interested in restoring and giving grace to Peter, maybe I should look for opportunities to do the same.

Even Paul, who can have a hard edge to his leadership at times says in Galatians 6:1 "if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path."

If we're to be gentle and humble with believers, who should know better, how loving should we be for those who have not even committed to following Jesus yet?

At no point should we fail to speak the truth in love, but speaking the truth without love (which is what criticism is) is perhaps worse still that just staying quiet.

So I'm going to go back to CT and gently and humbly suggest that we point people to Jesus without presuming to know what everybody else should do in every situation.

I hope he listens, but I guess I'll just have to trust that the Holy Spirit can work in his life.



35@35 is a blog series by Thomas Christianson which involves 35 blog posts in 2014 on 35 things he has learned at the age of 35.