Is it confrontation or just plain criticism?

Has someone ever confronted you? If you’re a Christ-follower and you’ve made some really unChristlike decisions on purpose, has anyone ever come up to you and challenged you?

I know people who have experienced that, and I can’t imagine it’s pleasant for either person. And I think it’s important, especially if that person is a Christ-follower. If you’ve given your life to Christ, you shouldn’t look like everyone else. You should look like Jesus. And we may never get there, but that’s our goal. Or at least it should be. And that’s why we have each other–to help keep us accountable.

But what about for other issues? Has another Christ-follower ever confronted you about your lack of one-on-one time with God? Or about how little time you spend reading the Bible? Or about how often you volunteer to help others? Has anyone ever confronted you about those things?

If so, what did it do to your heart? Did it make you want to go sign up to volunteer right then because you love God so much? Or did it just make you really, really angry?

pedicure2Today’s verses are Romans 14:1-4.

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.

Confrontation is essential in our lives. We have to know how to do it, otherwise we’ll constantly be stepped on and undervalued. We’ll never stand up for the things that matter, because believe it or not, the world doesn’t much care for the things Jesus does.

But more often than not, I really think Christians take confrontation to the extreme. Granted, I know Christ-followers who have confronted believers with their sins, and it’s turned them around completely. But it isn’t the confrontation that did it. And it isn’t the person who spoke up. It’s the Holy Spirit in that believer’s life Who made the difference.

But what about those Christians who are trying to get the basics down? Do they need to be confronted? Or does your confrontation look and sound like criticism?

We mean well. I think we truly want to help other believers, because we have found such amazing joy in our own walks with Christ that we want others to share it too. But I think we forget that God made us unique, and that means we all serve Him differently.

It’s you know they’re sleeping around or abusing people or living a life that God says is wrong, that’s different, of course. But for a Christ-follower who is doing the best they can with what they have, please, just remember who you are and who their Father is.

It’s like the thumb criticizing the big toe because it isn’t doing a good enough job. But if you work an office job, of course your thumb gets more use than your toe does. You sit down all day. What matters is that when you stand up, your big toe holds its weight.

We’re all a part of God’s body. Some of us have been here longer than others, but we’re all one body. And criticizing each other discourages and demoralizes the members who are doing the best they can with the time and opportunity they have.

If someone wants to get closer to God, they’ll look for a way. If they want to know the Bible better, they’ll ask. If they want to serve, they’ll step up. God works in different people’s hearts in different ways, and that is between that person and God.

Don’t be afraid to invite people. Don’t be afraid to include others in what you’re doing. If you’ve got a great Bible study, ask others to come with you so they can hear what you’re learning. If you work in a ministry, invite others to come with you so they can see what you’re doing. But don’t tell them they aren’t working hard enough for God. That’s not your judgment call to make, and all you’ll do is hurt them.

Keep yourself in line. Be willing to share what God is doing in your life. And, honestly? Just chill out. God is responsible for helping people grow. Not you. If you get to be involved, it’s because God has invited you.

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The difference between correction and criticism

This has never happened before. I went to BibleGateway.com this morning to get today’s Verse of the Day . . . and it was the same verse as Monday. Proverbs 19:20-21.

Maybe it’s a mistake? Maybe someone forgot to put a new verse up? That’s what I was thinking, and so I was just going to go look for a different verse to blog about. After all, the Bible is full of verses and I already covered this one. But then I read it again, and something completely different stood out to me than on Monday.

On Monday, I focused on getting wise cousel but leaving the plans to God. But (for some reason) the verse this morning displayed in the New International Version, which translates just a little bit differently than the New Living Translation:

20 Listen to advice and accept discipline,
   and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
 21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
   but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

If you remember the devo on Monday, does what I saw this morning stand out to you?

Accept discipline.

Wow. How huge is that? Because it’s one thing to accept wise and godly advice from someone. It’s something else to accept discipline. Whether it comes from God in the form of chastisement or it comes from a parent or it comes from a friend, discipline is always hard to accept because it means you have to admit you’ve done something wrong.

A wise person accepts discipline.

Now, what is discipline exactly? The Amplified Version translates that same part of the verse this way: “Hear counsel, receive instruction, and accept correction.”

To me, that means discipline is any statement or action designed to correct an unwise behavior. Discipline can come from many different places. When we’re young, it comes most often from our parents or our teachers — if we don’t do our homework or if we misbehave in class. At work, it can come from bosses – if we don’t meet expectations or if we do something that risks our safety or the stability of the company. Within the church, it can come from pastors or from ministry leaders — if we do something or say something that endangers a ministry. And friends can even discipline (or correct) friends.

So, that begs the question if we always accept discipline. Because isn’t there a difference between discipline and correction and just plain criticism? Well. Yes.

Some people are critical and they will always be critical, and when they turn their focus on you, all they may have to say about you will be negative and unconstructive.

How can you tell the difference? How can you know what correction to accept and what criticism to ignore?

I’m not an expert in this, and I’m not a scholar. And I’m still pretty young. So I can’t tell you that I’ve got any of it figured out, but I can tell you what’s worked for me.

The way I handle discipline/correction/criticism is to take it all 100 percent seriously until I’ve had a chance to think about it. I can’t tell the difference really. I don’t know how to distinguish between them at first blush. I have to examine it to tell.

If someone tells me that I’m dressed in a way that’s too worldly, I take that seriously. And then I take a good long look at what I’m wearing, I compare it to what I believe the standards of Scripture are, and I ask God to show me if I’m wrong or if that person was just expressing an opinion. I also consider the background of the person who made the accusation. If he or she comes from a more conservative background that doesn’t like women to wear pants, that also will affect how I take their statement. If I can honestly say that my clothing choices are modest and appropriate, I will respect the opinon of the person who spoke up but I will not accept their correction because it’s merely criticism. It’s just that person telling me that they don’t like the clothes I wear. There’s no basis in Scripture to support their opinion. (However, if in my perusal of my wardrobe I discovered that all of my clothing is designed to attract attention in a way that isn’t appropriate, I would have some serious decisions to make.)

But . . . let’s say I am working backstage for a large dramatic production at NewSpring, and it’s my job to get props on stage for the actors to use in their scene. I have looked at the script and I know all my cues, and I think I’m doing my job perfectly. But then–the director comes back and tells me to bring the props out earlier, that I’m not bringing them out soon enough. What do I do? Do I immediately assume that the director is just trying to stifle my creativity or tell me that I don’t know what I’m doing? Do I jump to the conclusion that the director is just expressing his opinion and being critical of my work? No. I would treat it the same way. I would take a good long look at my motivation and the circumstances. In this case, when we’re talking about a dramatic production, the director is the one in charge, and if he wants the props on stage sooner, it’s my responsibility to get them on stage sooner — becuase the director is my authority and I am commanded in Scripture to obey my authorities. And in this case, my refusal to accept the direction (aka discipline and correction) will negatively impact the production as a whole. The actors won’t have their props. The whole play will be affected by my decision. Granted, if I have real, honest reasons why I think the props should go out at a different time, I’ll speak up and respectfully request to do it my way. But if the director says no, what the director says goes.

Do you see the difference? If there is no scriptural basis for the correction you are getting, it’s an opinion. You have to base everything in Scripture, but you can’t just shrug off every bit of correction or instruction as criticism. You have to take it all seriously until you’ve compared it to the Word of God. And if you compare it to the Word of God and find your actions lacking, you need to change.

Admit that you were wrong. Accept correction and instruction and discipline no matter how much it might hurt, and you will be called a wise person. Not only will you be wiser for it, you will also help yourself and help others. Because most of the time, discipline doesn’t just keep you out of trouble, it keeps you from causing trouble for other people too.

Black Sheep

Does anyone know what it’s like to never really fit in? I’m not sure I ever have fit in anywhere. Not that it’s a bad thing. Being different is fine with me. But I know a lot of people who can fit into every situation, even if it’s something they’ve never dealt with before. I’m not that way. I usually end up standing out (granted, that’s mostly because of my own choices in clothing and style and whatever).

One place, however, I have never doubted that I belonged is my family. We are all pretty much alike, no matter how you slice it. Of course, we’re all really odd so that probably plays a major role in making me feel like I fit in.

I’m very thankful for my family. I also know quite a few people who don’t fit in with their families, and I’m not certain how I would cope with that. If I didn’t have my family, I’m not sure what I would do. I mean, obviously, I would be okay because God has a plan but still — that would be very difficult for me.

Why do families do things like that to each other? Families are supposed to love each other no matter what, not cast members out because they have made choices that don’t fit the mold. That’s what I thought about this morning when I read the verse for the day:

Galatians 3:26-28

 26 For you are all children[a] of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.[b] 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[c] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

As believers in Christ, we are family. At least, we should be. If nothing else, we have one thing in common, our mutual acknowledgement of Christ in our lives. But more often than not, we fight among each other and treat each other terribly.

Some of the cruelest people I’ve met are Christians. And, yes, they can be cruel to nonbelievers, but most of the time they’re too busy ripping other Christians to pieces. Why is that? How is that okay? We’re family. We’re supposed to be united, standing together instead of falling apart.

Who cares if that Christian listens to hymns? Who cares if this one only likes David Crowder Band or Caedmon’s Call? Who cares if another Christian only likes acid rock and punk metal and dresses in black leather and chains? Who cares if a Christian prefers traditional clothing? Or blue jeans? Or simple dress and a head covering? If they believe in Christ as the only way to reach heaven, they are family — our brothers, our sisters — and we should work together for the common goal that Christ left us here for, reaching others for Him.

It makes me think of another verse. I can’t give you the reference. I’m terrible with references. But I believe it’s in one of the Synoptic Gospels. The disciples are telling Jesus about some other people who’ve come along preaching in His name, and they’re all upset about it. I guess the disciples thought they had the only Jesus club in town. They wanted Jesus to put a stop to it and Jesus refused. His answer was something like, “If they are not against us, they’re for us.”

Hey, you Christians out there! You people who trust in Christ? It doesn’t matter what your denomination is. And it doesn’t matter what you look like or how you dress or how educated you are. If you believe in Christ, you belong to Him and you are part of real family. And in this family there aren’t any black sheep and everyone fits in because nobody is perfect. The sooner the rest of us realize that, the better.

So stop criticizing each other. It doesn’t do you any good. It certainly doesn’t help the world see that our faith is worth anything. And half the time the person you’re criticizing is doing more to reach other people than you are.

If they aren’t hurting the cause, why criticize? Why try to stop them? Maybe the person upsetting the apple cart is you.