â€œEverything we do either propels Godâ€™s mission forward or hinders the embodiment of His kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.â€ â€” Jeff Christopherson, Vice President of Send Network
Christopherson is right on point. All too often, we fail to see that everything we do impacts the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Since we are the only representatives of that kingdom, every believer must come to the point where we learn to confront ourselves with every word we speak and every action we takeâ€”before we say or do them.
The failure of some of us to weigh our actions is a shortcut to behaving like the ungodly whose lives are characterized by contentions and dissensions (see Galatians 5:19â€“21). In short, there is no room in a Christianâ€™s life for creating strife, friction and discordâ€”especially between and among professing believers.
Recognizing the Danger of a Critical Spirit
Contention usually begins with a critical spirit and exhibits itself as criticism. Whilst conceding that criticism can be constructive or destructive, for the most part, constructive criticism is usually shared privately in the spirit of Galatians 6:1â€“2 and Matthew 18:15.
It is public criticism that is most destructive. It is also infectious, leveling accusations and condemnations and drawing bystanders into one of Satanâ€™s most subtle schemes in his quest to overthrow the kingdom of heaven.
Jude warns us in his epistle that â€œcertain men have crept in [among believers] unnoticed.â€ They are of several different kinds: those who have gone the way of Cain, those who have gone the way of Balaam, and those who have gone the way of Korah.
Korah was a critic of Moses. Korah is the poster boy for critics. It is interesting that his story unfolds in Numbers chapter 16, but is so important for us today that Jude wrote a stern warning for the church to beware of being critical.
Criticism assumes that the purveyor knows better than the target of the criticism. That was Korahâ€™s problem. He thought he know how to run the â€œWilderness Operationâ€ better than Moses. He really got upset when Moses did not divide a gift of wagons equally among the clans who carried the tabernacle. Korah was of the Kohathites; his clan didnâ€™t get any wagons (see Numbers 7:9).
Read Numbers 4 where the Lord gave Moses specific instructions to follow.
Korah thought Moses was wrong. He complained to his family, to his neighbors and friends, and stirred them to the point of rebellion. As Dr. K.P. Yohannan points out in his booklet â€œThe Beauty of Christ through Brokenness,â€ â€œGod Himself ripped open the earth and swallowed him up.â€ In fact, it swallowed up Korah and all who joined in with his critique of Moses, including their wives and children (see Numbers 16:32).
Recognizing Criticism for What It Is
Pastor Ronald Franklin describes all criticism as falling into one of three categories. And he warns us to expect to be criticized. Thatâ€™s right. We are not going to make it through life without being criticized. So we need to understand the kinds of criticism we may face and understand how to respond in a Christ-like manner that advances the kingdom of heaven.
â€¢ Accurate Criticism.
This is valid criticism that may or may not be 100 percent correct. When we know that criticism is substantially correct we should consider it as an opportunity to make needed corrections (see Proverbs 15:31â€“32.)
â€¢ Inaccurate Criticism.
This is criticism that is â€œessentially incorrect,â€ but may include a kernel of truth. This type of criticism may allow us an opportunity to teach what the critic does not have correct (see Acts 11:2â€“4.)
â€¢ Malicious Criticism.
This is criticism that is motivated by some personal agenda on the part of the critic. When weâ€™re faced with this type of criticism, it presents an opportunity to minister grace, which advances the kingdom of heaven as Christ intends for us to do (see Matthew 5:44â€“45.) It is particularly interesting that this is when grace is true ministry on behalf of advancing the kingdom of Heaven.
Social media has opened up a whole new world for criticismâ€”and the world loves it. Even some news media has drifted away from objective reporting to various formats for criticism.
For that reason, Christians must exercise a discerning spirit to not only recognize unwarranted criticism but also to understand the kind of critical spirit from whence those critical comments originate. A discerning spirit can recognize a critical spirit.
Recognizing a Critical Spirit
â€œâ€¦true and loving. It comes from a humble, caring heart that wishes the best for the other person. It is not bitter condescending, insulting, or cold-hearted.
â€œThere is a significant difference between helping someone improve and having a critical spirit. A critical spirit is never pleased. A critical spirit expects and finds disappointment wherever it looks. It is the opposite of 1 Corinthians 13: a critical spirit arrogantly judges, is easily provoked, accounts for every wrong, and never carries any hope of being pleased. Such an attitude damages the critiqued as well as the critic.
â€œBiblical criticism is helpful, loving, and based on truth. Correction is to be gentle. It comes from love, not from a sour personality. Galatians 5:22Ââ€“23 says the Spirit wants to produce in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If criticism cannot be expressed in keeping with the fruit of the Spirit, itâ€™s better left unsaid.â€
The right place to stop criticism is at the source. If we are not walking in the Spirit, we will follow the flesh. As we have already seen, the flesh is the headquarters for critical spirits.
Ed Stetzer identifies three types of critical spirits:
â€¢ The Constant Critic.
You know who they are. They are always complaining about something, always pointing out things that are â€œnot right.â€
â€¢ The Low-character Critic.
Stetzer says, â€œI am stunned to see just how much some â€˜Christianâ€™ bloggers, in particular, will lie, play guilt by association, and display a complete lack of characterâ€”all while calling out someone for something similar. The blogosphere may be their sandbox, but they can be found just about anywhere on the playground.
â€¢ The Opportunistic Critic.
These are people who are always looking for a new issue to expose or debate. Stetzerâ€™s advice? See them for who they are.
None of us is or ever will be exempt from criticism. Not a single individual or institution will go uncriticized by someone at some time. Gospel for Asia (GFA) is nearing its 40th year of ministry. Although we have been and continue to be blessed abundantly, we have also experienced criticism. Some of it has been dispensed with love and kindness. Some other, not so much. Our commitment is to honor the Lord in all we do with a sincere desire to please Him.
Let us consider our need for brokenness so we do not become critical spirits nor respond inappropriately to them. Let us remember we are accountable to the righteous scrutiny of a holy God. Let us live our lives in that light and help others to do so as well.
May God help us to not have a critical spirit. May He grant us the wisdom to recognize the different types of critics and criticism for who and what they are. Even more so, may He direct our paths is such a way that we respond in a way that advances the kingdom of heaven.
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- The Paired Life, Bible Principles for Dealing with Criticism
- Got Questions, What does the Bible say about Criticism?
- Christianity Today, How a Christian Should Critique Criticism
- The Christian Post, What Is The Christian Way To Respond To Criticism
- Christianity Today, The Myth of Missionary Neutrality
- Alpha Stock Images [CC BY-SA 3.0]