Criticism and Correction

When I was younger, I used to love watching American Idol with my parents. More specifically, I loved watching the first few episodes when it was just the preliminary tryouts. I always found it amusing to watch the people who came in, sung horribly, dressed funny, or said or did something weird, and then left in shock and confusion as to why they did not receive their ticket to Hollywood. But I think what always stuck out to me the most, and made me laugh the hardest, were the large numbers of people who came in saying, “I’ve been told all my life how amazing of a singer I am,” and then proceeded to sing horribly. I remember laughing to myself as three professional judges would tell them that they could not sing and were bad. The contestants would storm off screaming and swearing, not taking the criticism of trained professionals. They then would say something to the extent of,  “I don’t care what these people say, I know I am an incredible singer.”

As amusing as that was to watch, I think it speaks to, and is a great example of, two problems that run rampant in our culture, and in Christianity. That is, the fear of correcting (or rebuking) someone, and the inability to personally take/handle correction.

I think back to those people in American Idol who said, “I’ve been told my whole life how amazing of a singer I am.” I think to myself, “Really? Because I had to mute my TV there for a second.” I also think of how many people in that person’s life probably knew he or she was not gifted in singing, but were fearful of giving honest feedback, and so they lied to him or her. In our Christian walks, when we see a brother or sister stumbling and living in error, we should not be fearful of giving corrections! We love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and so we should stand firm on the Word of God and call out sinfulness or unwise courses of action. Paul reminds Timothy that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

What I am not saying here is to go leap and run screaming at someone at the first sign of sin, bashing them over the head with your Bible, nor am I saying we offer correction in matters of differing opinions (theological issues, Christian liberty, etc…) What I am saying, is that the Word of God is useful for correcting ourselves, and others. We should walk alongside others, in gentleness and love. We want to help others to grow into what God has called them to be. Do not allow fear to excuse you from giving helpful corrections to a struggling believer. Priscilla and Aquila corrected Apollos (Acts 18:24-26), Paul rebuked Peter (Galatians 2:11-14), and many of Paul’s epistles are correcting and aiding struggling churches.

Remember, James says, “let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). What happens if no one stops a Christians from living in sin? They will continue to sin, and perhaps even believe their sin to be justified. Friends, speak truth and correction that is based on God’s Word (not exclusively your opinions), in order to help our friends. I recall the words my dad told me years ago, “A good friend will tell you what you need to hear, not always what you want to hear.” May that be so for us in our relationships with those around us. May we speak love and truth to those who need it.

Lastly, on the other hand, we need ourselves to be able to handle corrections. We don’t want to be those American Idol contestants who run out screaming when they hear critique that they didn’t like. It can be so easy to think that we have it all together. I confess, that I wrestle with this often. Pride is a sin that has followed me everywhere I go. But, if it were not for the loving rebukes and corrections my friends and loved ones gave me, that very pride would be explosive in my life. Where I have stumbled greatly in sin, the church, friends, and family have pulled me back up and helped me by correcting me when it was appropriate.

We need to stop and think about the criticism we are receiving. It isn’t coming out of nowhere. We need to think and ask, What has led them to say this? How have I made them think this?” Furthermore, we then must respond to the criticism and work on what needs to be worked on. Has someone approached you mentioning that you are arrogant? Maybe someone has noticed that you’ve been very hateful lately? Or, maybe someone has approached you on a sin that they have seen you partake in or struggle with. We need to stop, think, and pray through these things that are brought to us in order that we may grow as better believers.

We must be teachable, and heed the wisdom of others. Sometimes that outside perspective looking in on us is just what we need. Again, I will confess that I never once considered myself to be prideful in college until my roommate approached me and said, “Hey Nate, I’ve been noticing that the way you speak, act, and carry yourself is extremely prideful and rude.” He offered me specific examples and instances to show this. The result then was that I began to repent and seek to grow in humility.

I leave you with this verse, “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence,” Proverbs 15:32. Friends, we must be humble, and learn to grow by hearing instruction and listening to correction when someone gives them. We do not have it all together, we need God’s grace, and the help of those around us. And we ought not to be fearful of offering correction either. We all as a church family want what is best for others. So, let us begin growing and walking with one another in truth and love.

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