Have you ever done something with the best of Christian intentions, only to get rebuked for it by other believers? Have you ever sought to encourage others in God, only to get criticised for doing so? It really can be quite a painful and discouraging experience.
But I guess that is the risk any believer takes when he speaks out about his faith. I guess that is why so many believers keep everything to themselves. They don’t like the controversy and opposition which so often can come in response. And here I refer just to criticisms from other believers.
A while ago someone set up a page on a social networking site called “Hating sin doesn’t make me a legalist: it makes me a Christian”. I thought it was a great line and a great idea. This is because to simply seek to stand up for God’s holiness and for God’s holy standards for us today will result in some believers criticising you.
They really do think you are being legalistic when you even quote a Bible passage on this topic or quote a great saint who writes about the holy life. They attack you and accuse you of being unloving and judgmental. I find this rather amazing and really have a hard time comprehending how believers can take this stance.
It seems we have so bought into the spirit of the age in which we are to tolerate everything and judge nothing that to simply uphold God’s righteous and just standards turns us into heartless legalists and cold judges. Sadly I get this often from believers.
The ironic thing is, often these believers who go on and on about how we should never judge and never point the finger and never accuse and never be critical tend to do exactly that. They will attack others, criticise others, judge others, accuse others, often in a rather unloving and ungracious manner – all in the name of love and grace of course.
It would be one thing if they practiced what they preached – one might be able to receive their words easier that way. But it simply baffles me how judgmental these folks can be all the while saying how very wrong and unbiblical it is to be judgmental!
Now I expect to be criticised from other believers. To be honest, I probably quite often deserve to be. But what can be especially discouraging is when I simply quote a Scripture or cite a great man of God, and still get rebuked for doing this! That I find most puzzling indeed.
I love some of the great men and women of God who sought God with all their heart, who sought holiness, who hated sin, and who loved righteousness. I would think that all believers would be blessed by such great men and women of God.
So I often quote from these great saints in the hope of encouraging other believers. We are told in so many places in Scripture to exhort one another, encourage one another, spur one another on to more fully and deeply love Christ. Thus it just did not occur to me that simply citing such folk could somehow actually offend other believers.
For example, I once posted a quote from Oswald Chambers. Most people know of him. He was a tremendous man of God noted for his close walk with God and his emphasis on biblical holiness and purity. He was also the author of the famous book of daily devotions, My Utmost for His Highest.
The quote of his which I posted, without any commentary, was this: “Our Lord never sympathised with sin; he came to ‘proclaim liberty to the captives,’ a very different thing. We have to see that we don’t preach a theology of sympathy, but the theology of a Saviour from sin.” I thought it was a terrific and thoroughly biblical quote which all of us could benefit from and be blessed by.
Yet when I posted it, I got a reply from one believer who made it quite clear that he thought that I was rather off the wall for even posting it. He felt it was all very un-Christlike. I must say I was taken back by this comment. I had to read it several times over.
I could not understand what I or Chambers did to warrant such a rebuke. After a few exchanges I decided it would be wise to move on, seeing that we were obviously at different places here. But I had to get on my knees and ask God to search my heart.
I don’t want to be defensive and right in myself. I do want to be right in God. So I asked God to help me more graciously take on board such criticisms. I have much to learn and of course have much more progress to make. I certainly need to listen to others, even when they give a hard or stinging word.
I have said before that we all need to heed criticism; after all, we all have blind spots and shortcomings. But we should use the old fish dinner method: eat the meat but reject the bones. That is, prayerfully ask God which parts of the criticism are warranted and which are not.
Those that are we can prayerfully take on board, and seek to grow thereby. Those that are not of God we should simply ignore. We need each other, and each other’s emphases. I need to get the full picture even as I share what I am being led to share. And at the moment I think the church today tends to be woefully inadequate in terms of holiness and the fully consecrated life.
So that is the message I so often give. But yes of course the message of grace and mercy are part of the package. It just seems that Bonhoeffer had it right when he said that today we have far too much cheap grace. We want all the benefits of the faith without any of the hardships. We want the crown without the cross.
So I will keep writing and speaking on what I feel led to do. And I will have to expect plenty of criticism along the way. Pray that I rightly respond to all the criticisms, and become all that I am meant to be in Christ. And pray that in the process I still proclaim the word which I am meant to share.