Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reckless Tongues part 5 - Action VS Feelings

If we are going to correct in love, then we must truly understand it. Love is a concept that everyone from philosophers, psychologists, to theologians has tried to wrap their minds around. However, the average person off the street tends to view it as an emotion, regardless what deep thinkers say about it. This perception is true even within the church at times. Is that perception Biblically sound though? The Bible always portrays love as an action. The passage we just looked at in the last entry from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 does not describe how love feels, but what love does; or in some cases, does not do. Nor does it say we should only do, or not do these actions, when we feel it, but always. Yet, it goes deeper than that still. 

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 
-1 John 3:16-18 niv

The above passage not only uplifts the virtues of action over mere words, it uses the rather intense imagery of laying ones life down for others. Love is more than an action, but love is a selfless action. Love is doing something for someone else's sake, rather than your own. This is an important detail that people often overlook. If love is treated just as an emotion, what is it about it that we really love; the people or just the feelings they provoke? For example, Physical love. It’s something that people tend to pursue from the people we claim to love. However, we often see this happen even when the other person is not comfortable with it yet. If we were really putting the other person first out of selfless love for them, then the idea of making them uncomfortable should be intolerable. Yet, still we see people tolerating this quite frequently. Why? Obviously, such people love the feelings they seek more than the person. They are doing what they are doing for their own sake, not the sake of the other. Which is by definition a selfish action rather than a selfless one. Which defies the Biblical definition of love. Like I indicated before, the actions that we chose not to do, are just as important as the ones we do.

It’s no wonder divorce is so common these days. If you live by the worldly definition of love as an emotion alone, what is to stop you from verbally abusing your partner when the feelings they instill in you change for the worse? Why shouldn’t you try to criticize your spouse into coughing up feeling for you when they aren’t doing it as you like? Despite the fact, that you might not have served your partner’s feelings any more than you are demanding them to. Despite the fact you expect them to serve your feelings, when you are walking all over theirs via criticism.  The world tries to take love by dong the exact opposite of what the Bible says love should do. Yet, we wonder why it often gets the opposite result we’re looking for when we do as the critical world does. (Romans 12:9-21)

The Visual PARABLEist

a woman traveling side by side with a one legged man
it doesn’t matter when we get there, as long as we get there together

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reckless Tongues part 4 - A Biblical Model for correction

Don’t think that I have been saying that there isn’t a place for good Biblical correction. I’m not saying that at all. However, it is always something we should approach with caution. The Bible even acknowledges this with a warning in Galatians 6:1. 

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. NIV

Not only does it warn us to be gentle with people, but it warns us of the possible temptations we face ourselves in not doing so. Think about that, if we only end up promoting rebellion because we hurt or insulted the person we intended to help. As well as lead ourselves astray in the process by correcting via the fleshly pride of our sinful nature, and not the humility of the spirit, the only change is for the worse on all fronts. So you can clearly see that the Bible teaches us that criticism isn’t only bad for the receiver, but for the one doing the criticizing too. As individuals, it damages our relationships, as a church it hampers our outreach efforts. The saddest part is that when it comes to the church, we are all reaping the bitter fruit of the critical seeds sown in the name of righteousness, even if it’s only practiced by a few. So I think it’s long past due that we all heed God’s stern warning here. 

The obvious question now is where do we draw the line that divides Biblically based correction from fruitless criticism? It’s actually quite simple, and it’s a good line to observe in many cases, not just correction; and the answer would be love. (1 Corinthians 16:14) A very important yet often neglected truth in the creed of Christianity. If we are truly acting in a selfless way in attempting to do right by a person, then our correction needs to be done in love. Anything less and your words can come out as hurtful, disrespectful, and unproductive. 

This truth makes our analysis of the concept quite simple. All we have to do is compare correction with the attributes of Christian love. They are all conveniently listed in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. By using this as our standard, we will know just how to correct properly. Also, by looking at the exact opposite of love we will see what constitutes criticism, and what makes it harmful to everyone involved. For that is precisely what defines a critic, someone who does the opposite of what love would do. 

Love is patient. Critics are impatient.
Love is kind. Critics are unkind.
Love does not envy. Critics are often motivated by envy.
Love does not boast. Criticism can be a thinly veiled form of boasting.
Love is not proud. Critics are full of pride.
Love is not rude. Critics seek to dishonor others.
Love is not self-seeking. Critics are selfish takers. 
Love is not easily angered. Criticism is often an act of anger.
Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Critics keep a record of wrongs, and they use them too. 
Love does not delight in evil. Criticism is a product of the sinful nature of the flesh 
Love rejoices with the truth. Critics make the truth seem undesirable. 
Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes.
Critics only protect, trust, and hope when you do as they please.
Love always perseveres. Unfortunately, criticism perseveres as well. 

harsh words landing on both giver and receiver

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reckless Tongues part 3 - our love/hate relationship with criticism

We often have a love/hate relationship with criticism. We almost always hate the unsolicited criticism we receive from others. So much so that we often put much thought into how unfounded and unnecessary it is, and how wrong the people who inflict it upon us are. Then repay that criticism with criticism. For we can plainly see this evil in others.

However, we do not put nearly as much thought into our own criticism of other people. We seem to think that our own harsh words are perfectly justified. We may even expect them to be thankful for our criticism, if our intention is correction. It always seems so easy to discern the right choices for others, when we are on the outside looking in. If only we could step outside ourselves and see ourselves as others experience us. Since we are often blind to just how hurtful our words can be when we think our intentions are good, even when our tactics are no different from the harsh words we endure from others. Many cannot see just how guilty we are of the crime of criticism that we accuse others of.  If only criticism were as easy to spot in ourselves as it is in others. If only we considered and heeded what the Bible teaches us about proper correction. Then it wouldn’t be such a prominent and socially acceptable force as it is today.

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? - Romans 2:1-4

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. -James 3:9-12

someone accusing someone of criticism as they themselves criticize another
Hypocritical tongue

Next time A Biblical model for correction

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reckless Tongues part 2 - society and criticism

In the post modern world criticism has become a socially acceptable practice. A practice that people often engage in with absolutely no regard to the consequences. Why should we? It’s portrayed as such a normal thing everywhere we look, not that normal is by default good by any means. Many of these so-called reality TV shows revolve around placing people in a position of spectacle. Unfortunately, that’s why many people tune in, to watch people be criticized and humiliated. Many of the sitcoms out there are just people criticizing one another all for a laugh. Journalism is often an act of finding fault with whatever can be found, and projecting that harsh opinion before the entire nation. If you spend any time on the internet, where anybody can post a comment, you will find many hateful words. The phenomenon of blogging is often used as a virtual soapbox from which they can gripe. It’s not even about relevant things all the time, for often people are using the universal access of the internet to make a huge spectacle concerning the most trivial of issues. People even go out of their way to criticize critics ironically enough. There have even been a few isolated incidents where internet bullying has lead to suicide, which is a rather strong testament to just how powerful words can be. Overall the world has become so narcissistic and arrogant it seems like many people act as if the whole world exists to live up to their expectations, and verbally abuse everyone who displeases them. From the average person’s point of view it always seems like it’s the quickest and easiest way to get what we want out of, and change people to our liking. But the reality is, even when it works, the change is only surface. So we are only diluting ourselves by utilizing criticism.  When it doesn’t work at all, it inspires only hatred and resentment.  We even see reckless tongues in the church, including high profile voices of the church. Should we though?  It’s a question few have asked, but I believe that it’s time that we did.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless -James 1:26

Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint; protect my life from the threat of the enemy. 
Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from the plots of evildoers.
They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.
They shoot from ambush at the innocent; they shoot suddenly, without fear. - Psalm 64:1-4

a person being abused via the computer
altar of viciousness