I’ve discovered only one disadvantage to following Christ. It makes you an easy target.
Not for atheists or suicide bombers. Those folks are predictable.
No, the most hurtful criticism comes from other Christians.
And I want to know why.
Recently I read a stack of survey replies about a church event I’d helped plan. Most of them were encouraging or constructive, but a few were shockingly mean. You know—the kind of nasty remarks that probably say more about the author than the subject. I tried to shrug them off, but it’s hard to keep a handful of pepper from ruining the whole jar of honey.
Yet the more I thought about it, I had to admit—haven’t I been a speck of pepper before, too?
Anytime we gripe about our church, our leaders, or our sisters in Christ.
When the worship service is too loud, too slow, has too many hymns, not enough hymns, and why do they let that guy with the neck tattoos onto the stage? Don’t we have standards here?
When the Bible study leader won’t cut off the chatterbox sitting across from you, when the snack table has too many baked goods, not enough baked goods, when the book they chose is too fluffy or too serious, too short or too long. Who are “they,” anyway? Can’t “they” choose something better next time, for the love?
What if the preacher has too many bullet points, not enough bullet points, or no clear point at all? Don’t we have a right to complain? To make sure the people in charge know they should work harder to meet our needs because, after all, they exist to serve.
Yes, yes they do. They exist to serve—God. And so do you. So do I. It’s a job we all share. That’s why the Bible calls God’s people the “body of Christ.”
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ . . . . The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you’ . . . . If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 21, 26, NLT).
Has it ever occurred to you that your pastor, your worship team, your Bible study leader, your Sunday school teacher, the mom sitting next to you with a screaming child, that college student with purple hair, and every single believer in your congregation not to mention all other Christian congregations in the world are a part of the same body? Your body? Which means when we wield our complaints like axes, ready to whack a foot because we don’t like the way it’s walking, we’re actually chopping off our own foot.
In order to survive, a body needs all its parts working in harmony. And yes, sometimes that means we should get a check-up, a dose of medicine or even surgery. That’s what constructive criticism and accountability rooted in love can do for the body. That’s healthy.
But there’s a big difference between constructive criticism and self-serving complaints.
So next time you’re tempted to hack a body part, ask yourself—what’s my motive? Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, of course. But nobody is entitled to chop the body to bits. If your intention is to build up the body, then by all means, offer your thoughts with a spirit of encouragement.
But if your words are just going to cut and sting, please, please, please remember. You’re only hurting yourself—and God.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).
Okay, then. Next time your church offers a survey, you just go right ahead and speak the truth in love. I will, too. Deal? But seriously. If you choose instead to be rude, then woman up and sign your name. The foot deserves to know which butt it ought to kick, amen?