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Iron Sharpening…

September 18th, 2006

A challenge to my ever-increasing blaaawg-family. Or family of blogs.

Garrick, has posted a number of topics at his blog Ministry Matters, and always leaves a time for ‘Your turn’ at the end of each thoughful post. I’d like to challenge my readers, and fellow bloggers to take the time to seriously reply to the questions he asks.

First, I’d like to also encourage Garrick in stepping out and blogging while also being a very busy minister in our church. His presence has challenged me, in a good way, to think a little deeper, and become more involved. I’d also like to congratulate his willingness to intentionally solicit feedback, it is tough to communicate effectively online, and tougher still to seek other points of view.

His latest post, An Audience of One, makes some provacative points, and one that might engage in a bit of ‘push-back’ from me, at some points. First I want to address his quesiton:

How do you deal with crticism[sic] from other people, especially those who seem to have plenty of things to improve themselves? What can you do to be more of an encourager to those around you this week?

The answer and more below the fold.

The simple answer is to prayerfully consider the advise they give, and apply myself to resolving the concerns. That is simply drivel, because more often than not, I’d like to roll up their self-serving ‘advice’ and poke them in the eye with it. *ahem* Okay, that is my flesh speaking, but often it is in response to the flesh While I’m not especially disturbed by the number of critics out there in the world, I am disturbed by the number of critics in our churches. And these are, after all, supposedly Christian people who are instructed to build up the body of Christ. The sad thing is that so many believers frequently use their words and actions to tear others down instead.
of the person that is criticising.

The pertainent scripture to understand is the *mote-log* comparison of Matthew 7:3, in that if we are wanting to be effective we must do a little self-evaluation before launching into a advice giving session. Plainly Jesus is advocating that those without sin, cast stones first. That is the high-mark, one that practically no one meets, so we have to consider how do we accept criticism from sinful people without falling into sin ourselves, which ideally goes along the prayerfully consideration I quickly posted above.

As to how to become more of an encourager to those around me, I aim to lift people up, which is always my aim, though I fall short often. Back when I was new to the internet communication thing, I was dismayed at the huge amount of strife that can pop-up in written communication. In the middle of yet another flame war against an online adversary, Ang messaged me with a question about a passage in Ephesians. Which led me to the same section that Garrick highlighted in his post (Eph 4:29) and I focused on that passage, and the following verse.

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Eph 4:32 NLT)

At that point, I started the habit of ending each post with the word, “Peace”. As a marker that I intended not to injure but to encourage, to correct instead of tear down. I wasn’t always sucessful in that message, but the intention was always there. It is still my aim.

Okay, now that I’ve answered the question, time to pull out the knife… okay.. not really. There are some points of Garrick’s post that I feel led to address.

Garrick wrote:

While I’m not especially disturbed by the number of critics out there in the world, I am disturbed by the number of critics in our churches. And these are, after all, supposedly Christian people who are instructed to build up the body of Christ. The sad thing is that so many believers frequently use their words and actions to tear others down instead.

Color me disturbed too, but really not surprised. How many Christian people (there is a need to define term here, probably) remember the Sunday sermon, Monday morning? While they might be instructed, how many have learned? Clearly there is a disconnect, either that or the church (little ‘c’ universal, not an singular church) isn’t teaching on that topic. Christian people have much more practice at acting ‘unChristian’ than they do being Christian. That is a daily struggle we each have to bear, and it takes a lot of self-control, and self-inspection to understand how to conduct ourselves as a Christian, when there aren’t many tangible rewards for taking that action. (I do believe that is mis-stating the dilemma, becauce ‘Peace’ wasn’t a throw away line, I felt more PEACE acting PEACEful, than I did engaged in a flame-ware) We need more practice. The labwork for Sunday sermons is hardly done, and there is never any classroom time to experiment on the problem, much is left up as ungraded homework. [stop with the school allusions – ed, Okay…sorry]

Garrick continued:

What the church needs is encouragement. We need to each look for things to commend in our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. That does not mean that there is never a time when we should offer some appropriate insights about potential areas of improvement. However, I believe that should be done in the context of relationship with the person. And it is best received if it such feedback is solicited.

This I am in total agreement with, and welcome this perspective. Too often we allow our frustration to come to the surface first and color our interactions. If we do get singed with a biting comment, our relfex is to respond in kind, or jovially respond with cutting wit (shamefully my weapon of choice) without considering the effect that retaliation would have on the exchange. We must strive to maintain the relationship first, before we can possibly expect to have any agreement. Too often the relationship is considered LAST, which goes against the principles Jesus taught.

One such principle is the dual responsibility of maintaining that relationship when there is disagreement/problem. On the one hand the person responsible must take action, and on the other the person wronged must take action. In other words, the first step to resolving the problem is clearly stated by submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ (Ephesians 5:21 NET). In Christ we have nothing to hold on to, our flesh doesn’t take precedence, we can only cling to Him. If we truly want to encourage one another, we must bow to one another, as Christ aptly demonstrated in washing the disciples feet.

Who will you encourage today?

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