Criticism, The Need to Avoid Criticizing Others

Criticism, The Need to Avoid Criticizing Others

by Rubel Shelly

Published in LoveLines (June 29, 1994)

Blowing Out Another's Candle

Jesus has sent his disciples into the world as light-bearers. He intends for Christians to be "the light of the world." A church is to be like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden; its light in a dark environment draws seekers to a safe place. Individual believers are to be like lamps; they give light to all whose lives they touch.

But some of us get so busy blowing out the lights of others that we fail to tend to our own!

It seems to be a common trap over the history of the church. Many of us have fallen into it. Harm has been done to those we have criticized and hammered, but the greatest harm has been to ourselves.

The underlying assumption for those who adopt a ministry of blowing out others' candles is that anyone who knows Christ is like me. Thus a church with a different name or worship style from ours is a sect; we, of course, are the "true church." A brother or sister who views the millennium or home-schooling differently is suspect in "soundness"; perhaps she is not a Christian at all.

In the name of doing God's will, some people become destructively evil. They lash out. They spread rumors and false information. Claiming that their only concern is to be biblical, they ignore all the Bible says about loving others, restoring sinners gently, and keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

When tempted to make a career out of blowing out others' candles, we might consider the possibility that we are mistaken about the locus of evil. Perhaps the problem is our own distorted vision. Maybe the evil is within. Instead of trying to destroy someone else, perhaps the sickness that needs to be destroyed is within.

Truly evil people tend to attack others as a distraction from facing their own spiritual failures.

So be careful about believing the worst about someone. Be very slow to set yourself up as another's judge. Resist the temptation to crusade against anything outside yourself.

Any one of us will likely make a healthier contribution to God's purposes in the world by trying harder to be a light for someone else's dark path than by taking it on himself to blow out another's flickering candle.

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