Text: Colossians 1:3-10 April 22, 2012.
1) Criticism over appreciation: It¡¯s easy for us to develop a critical spirit toward others who are not showing spiritual growth or not live their life on biblical principles according our expectation we impose on them. We can easily spot areas of defect or concern on others that need correction or improvement. Often times when we focus so much on the negative side of a fellow saint in Christ, we are blinded to see some of the things in their lives that are worthy of notice and celebration, encouragement and thanksgiving. It is important that we be fair and balance to our dear brothers and sisters in correction over celebration.
2) Appreciation over criticism: Let¡¯s look at how Paul, the apostle, did on this issue: correction or celebration. Certainly Paul was never lenient on living in sin or spreading false doctrines, but he was careful not to finger pointing, accusation or condemnation in areas of lacking growth. In the later part of this letter to the Colossians, chapters 2-4, he pointed out their need to do better: to reject false teaching, (2:8-12) stop living in the secular world, (2:20-23) put to death the body of the fresh, (3:5-12) family life, (3:18-25) and better use of time and wisdom. (4:2-6) But in the text today, Paul celebrated the good things happened in that church, the things they did right. We certainly can learn from Paul on how to balance our approach to others in the church.
WE USUALLY ARE CRITICAL: Here are few reasons:
1) It is part of being human: ¡°And the man said: The woman you put here with me¡ªshe gave me some fruit from that tree and I ate it. Then the Lord said to the woman: What is this you have done? The woman said: The serpent deceived me and I ate.¡± (Genesis 3:12-13) Some may see this story as a ¡°blame game,¡± but I see it as ¡°look for the bad others do.¡± Adam saw a bad action of Eve, and Eve saw a bad action of the serpent. No one would say the serpent made Eve ate the forbidden fruit with a good intention, but it is highly possible that Eve wanted to see Adam also get the benefit of eating that fruit so he could be as smart as she was: knowing good from evil. (3:5) But Adam didn¡¯t see her good intention; he only saw the bad thing her action had done and the consequences that brought.
2) We are not being fair: ¡°You hypocrite, take the plank out of your own eyes and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother¡¯s eye.¡± (Matt 7:5) No one would argue that it is bias at best and hypocritical at worst when we ignore our own failure but claim to see clearly the speck in the eye of a brother. When we become critical of something in someone, most of the times, we ignore some of the good things that someone has or has done but focus only on that one bad thing we pronounce judgment on him. That is far from being fair.
3) It makes us feel better: ¡°In humility consider others better than yourself.¡± (Philippians 2:4) When we criticize the failures of someone else: we feel we are better than him or her. Even though we know in our inside we are not any better than the object of our criticism. When we are so focus on other¡¯s failure, we do feel better; at least we are better in that failure or sin.
THE POISON OF BEING CRITICAL: Also a few samples.
1) Criticism creates negativism: When we focus on the bad side of someone or something, be it real or imagined, we are using the negative approach to see and deal with that person or thing. When we are in negative mood, very few, if any, positive results would come out as results. This is true in politics, in social interaction and in all other human relationships. The more we criticize that person or something, we more we build negative attitude against him or it. Being critical and negative to others can only make things worse for both sides: you and your object.
2) Criticism suppresses positivism: When we build a critical and negative attitude against someone, our mind becomes unable to see the positive side of that person. The natural outcome is we can only see his negative side, unable to see his positive side as a person. This is more than just unfair, it is unjust in every way. When we judge anyone only one sided, our judgment is invalid and useless. No matter in whatever situation, this approach can only widen the gulf in relationship. This will result in hurting marriage, career, friendship, and church life.
3) Criticism hurts ourselves: ¡°Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother¡¯s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?¡± (Matt 7:3) By using 2 different words to represent the wrongs in both persons, Jesus dramatized the huge differences between the wrong in others and that in our own eye: a tiny speck of sawdust to a huge piece of plank. When we put so much negative attitude on others, we are blinded to see all the wrongs in our lives and because we are blinded and can¡¯t see, we won¡¯t do anything to correct our own problems. So, we are hurting our chances of self-correction and improvement.
STRIKING A BALANCE APPROACH: Colossians 1:3-10
1) Starting on a positive note: In his letter to the Colossians, Paul mentioned many of the positive facts of that church: a) the gospel has taken root and was producing fruit in their life. (1:6) He celebrated them for their spiritual growth in faith. (1:4) They were vigorous in resisting false teachings. (2:6-8) He also thanked God for their love toward the saints in concern of their needs. (1:4) He also praised and prayed for their growth in the knowledge of God and bearing fruit in all their good work. (1:10) While most part of Paul¡¯s letters to the churches were for teaching and correction, Paul did not ignore the good things happened in that church. He first looked at the church on the bright side. The good things they have done.
2) Providing room for further growth: Paul was not bias or blind in his observation of the Colossians church. He saw many good things in them, and he also saw areas of further growth they can and need to do better: They need to be steadfast in their faith so they won¡¯t be moved from their hope. (1:23) Since they have received Christ Jesus, they need to be rooted and built up in Him. (2:6) They also need to be strong in their faith not to be moved by deceptive philosophy and human tradition and the principles of this world. (2:8) Paul asks that they need to live their lives in a way that no one may criticize them in food and drink and other traditions. (2:16) Paul also asked them to put to death their carnal nature and all the sins related to the old nature. (3:5) Here we only quote a few. Paul did not criticize them, but pointed out some of the things they could do better and encouraged them to do more and achieve higher.
3) We are mutually responsible: ¡°Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.¡± (1 Thess 5:11) In consoling the grieving saints faced the loss of fellow saints, Paul reminded them they have duties to each other: to give comfort for the grieving and to assist them to rebuild their faith in the Lord. (4:13-18) Let¡¯s examine these 2 duties:
a) The duty of mutual encouragement: Parakleite, in Greek is from Para, to come along side, and kalew, to comfort, to cheer, to support. When Christians see a fellow brother or sister fails, didn¡¯t do it right nor enough to measure up to the biblical principles, we have the duty of coming to his or her side to lend our comfort, support to cheer him/her up. If you can¡¯t do it with actions, you can do it with kind words, at least in prayers, so he/she will be encouraged to recover from the pain of his/her failure.
b) The duty of mutual building up: Oikodomeite, in Greek, is from oikas, a house, and domew, to build, to construct or to repair. When one of us fails in anything, he suffers defeat on the inside, and his reputation, testimony or loses respect. We are not to jump in to criticize or condemn him, but to come to his help to rebuild his faith in God and regain his strength to get up again and get going.
c) We are responsible to each other: Both words are in plural and imperative, that means everyone must do the above to encourage and rebuild the weak without exception. When God put us together, be it in a family, at workplace, school or in a church, He has a purpose: God wants us to look after one another (Phil 2:4), so we may grow, serve, mature as a team to build God¡¯s church for His glory.
1) We are in the same boat: ¡°Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you too may be tempted.¡± (Galatians 6:1) In addition to asking the spiritual to restore a brother who is caught in sin, Paul also reminds the spiritual to be very careful because they too may be tempted as fall as well. No one is all-powerful or invincible in his spiritual life and walk. We are all fallible so we need to be gentle to our brothers who are not as spiritual as you are. If Jesus, the ONE who has never sinned, can forgive us, how much more do we need to forgive and support our brothers and sister? Don¡¯t be too hash to a fellow brother in Christ.
2) We all need to be honest: ¡°Each one should test his own actions then he can take pride in himself without comparing himself to someone else.¡± (6:4) God asks in the Bible that we are to self- examine our own life and see if there is any sin in it and we are to ask God for forgiveness. King David did exactly this in Psalm 139:23-24, ¡°Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.¡± If we can be humble in our hearts, we won¡¯t be too critical on others.