I’m still doing my deep dive into Deuteronomy but I took a detour into Romans 14 today and I’ll tell you why. Criticism. No, not towards me, at least not directly. I’m basically talking about criticism in general.
Did you ever read a Christian post where the scriptures were all bang on yet something was missing? Where you read statement after statement and each statement correctly identifies a spiritual requirement but yet manages to point out that what one might presume is genuine, could in fact, and most likely is, nothing but a charade?
I’ve interacted and spoken with a large number of people, covering a wide spectrum of ages, from all walks of life, over the years, about God and Jesus. I’ve made my share of mistakes and learned some hard lessons. I’ve also taken a good hard look at how Jesus interacted with people who were searching for truth. I’m not talking about Pharisees who were trying to trick Jesus but people in the Bible that Jesus interacted with, who were honestly looking for truth. Probably the best example that comes to my mind is the Samaritan woman at the well, that Jesus spoke with. I actually wrote a post on this a few months ago, if you’re interested you can read it here.
Criticism, on my part, was involved with the lesson God taught me in this particular incident I just referred to.
In Romans chapter 14, the Apostle Paul provides us with some very important guidance and I’d like to briefly go over some of them. Romans 14:1 NIV states “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” He goes on to point out that one Christian can eat anything while another eats only vegetables. He expands upon this regarding honoring one day over another or someone who treats all days the same. But I want you to notice what Paul also states in Romans 14:4 NIV …. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” Paul continues in Romans 14:10 NIV “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Paul continues in Romans 14:13 NIV “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.“
I should probably be quoting the whole 14th chapter but please also note Romans 14:19 NIV “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Continual criticism is not mutual edification.
And yes, I am acutely aware that the examples being given by Paul have to deal primarily with food or what is viewed as “acceptable” or “not acceptable” but the principle that Paul is illustrating is still valid on how we are to specifically deal with “weak” Christians.
Now there’s nothing wrong in pointing out the reality of how we learn to grow in maturity and the numerous steps that are involved with that process. But (yes, I hate that word too)… why is it necessary for some to continually point out how the “majority” or “vast majority”, in post after post, are basically fooling themselves. How can anyone possibly know that? Would the number 7 thousand who had not bowed the knee to baal remind them of anything?
I know this can be a hard one to call because we do have to speak the truth and there are times when the “truth” is not going to be well received. I understand that. But there is also a tone which is to accompany the truth and that tone is NOT to convey the impression that “I have all this down pat and you don’t.” Or “I’m on the narrow path and you’re obviously not.”
I guess what I have learned is that it is not only what you say but how you say it that is important. The “what you say” can be 100% correct but if the “how you say it” doesn’t have love mixed in with it, you can pretty well be guaranteed that it’s not going to be well received. How we say, what we say, plays a huge part in how it is received.
1st Corinthians 13 tells us that regardless of how learned we are, or what we have done, if love isn’t involved in it, it means nothing. Love must be part of the equation. It has to show, it has to be there or it falls short. And no, it isn’t easy. In fact it is very difficult but it is absolutely necessary and if that vital ingredient isn’t there, it shows. Nothing breaks down barriers like love. Nothing. When you trying to build people up, you don’t do that by continually tearing them down.
Not all Christians are at the same level of understanding or maturity. For those of us who think we are more mature, and I hesitate putting myself there, the onus would be on us to accept them where they are and gently lead them to greater truth.
If criticism is necessary, and sometimes it is, consider the mercy, grace and patience that you have been shown, in your delivery. And please mix it up, if criticism is your main menu, something is wrong.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!