They say baseball is our national pastime, but I would challenge that. No, I’m not here to instead make the case for basketball or football. No, I’d argue that the real national pastime in the United States is criticizing others. Not only do we generate copious amount of critiques, but we’re really good at developing incredibly scathing and vociferous critiques. Over the years I’ve been shocked by how cruel criticisms can be, and my experiences have mostly come within the church! I have seen so much hurt and pained caused by harsh criticism, and have seen numerous amazingly gifted people walk away from church because of such hurts. I would suppose things are even worse in the secular workplace. And then there is the world of politics. Wow! The just scathing criticisms we toss around at others based on their political views is pretty mind-boggling. As scathing criticism because more and more normative, I think it’s appropriate to ask ourselves the following: does God really want us to use such biting criticism?
For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:14-15
This is certainly not the only place we are taught about neighbor love. To love our neighbor means that we love everyone in the world around us as we love ourselves. Put as my mother always put it to me (with her finger wagging in my face): treat everyone as you would want them to treat you. Do we really want people to criticize us in the highly negative ways we see in the world? I’m not talking here of helpful critiques done in a loving manner. I’m talking about the really negative stuff done in a far from loving manner. If we don’t like being on the receiving end of such criticism, then we should be making every effort to never be on the giving end. Look at the second verse here very closely. That is something I fear I’ve seen way to often in God’s church. For whatever reason, whether it be our desire for control, our personal preferences, or something else, this is far too often what is happening in the church. Instead of the family of God being a body of love and nourishment, too often it is a place where we bite and devour each other Mike Tyson style.
Here’s my suggestion for all of us. Instead of being fault finders, lets be hope dealers. Instead of pointing out the flaws, let’s give encouragement. Instead of tearing someone down when they mess up, let’s help them do better the next time. God does not want us to be a people that constantly tear each other apart, but rather a people that strengthens one another with the love and grace of God. Stop looking for fault in others, and instead start being a regular dealer of hope.