Throughout the New Testament you can read of the Lord’s church facing critical situations; Situations that they had to deal with decisively, and most importantly… scripturally. The most critical situations a church had to deal with revolved around sin, and correcting that sin. Whether it be the “busybodies” of the church at Thessalonica (II Thess. 3), the morally reprehensible at Corinth (I Cor. 5), or various issues 6 of the 7 churches of Asia had to deal with (Rev. 2-3); we can see throughout the Lord’s church that critical situations arose that demanded brethren's’ attention. Today, things are no different.
One of the critical situations we must recognize and deal with in the Lord’s church to-day is how unfairly critical we can be of one another. The Holy Spirit has clearly told us that one of our chief occupations in being a Christian is to be an encourager… not a criticizer. “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’.” (Heb. 13:13) “Therefore encourage one another” (I Thess. 5:11) “Encourage the fainthearted” (I Thess. 5:14). It is easy to be critical; it’s not always that easy to be an encourager. Oftentimes, it is those who are most critical of others, that have the hard time doing some of the most basic acts of encouragement themselves, like showing up to church and participating (Heb. 10:24-25). If you can’t be an encourager, then you will have a real hard time being a Christian.
Not only has the Holy Spirit commanded it of us, but He has shown us the example of what is expected of us. Brethren in First Century Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe certainly had it a lot more difficult than we do in 21st Century America. So what’s our excuse for not being able to walk in the footsteps of men like Timothy (I Thess. 3:2), or Justus (Col. 4:11), or Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32)? The Apostles were encouragers (Acts 14:22), and their example is authoritative (II Thess. 3:7), and one that we are to be vigilant in following (Phil. 4:9). And who can forget about Joseph, who was so well known as an encourager that he was given the nickname Barnabas (Acts 4:36)? Why not make it your goal to be a modern day Barnabas, rather than a modern day Diotrephes (III John 1:9-10)?
We live in an era where, thanks to social media, it is easy to pry in (stalk) the lives of others, and it is popular to comment (criticize) on such. The more witty, cunning, and potent our attacks can be, perhaps the more revered and honored we are by our worldly peers, and shamefully, sometimes even by our brethren. But it is not our job to be cat-ty, to be demeaning, to fill our lives and those whom we are to love with vitriol and meanness rather than joy and peace and kindness (Eph. 4:29-5:8). Are we not called to walk by the Spirit and not the flesh (Gal. 5:16-25)? Are we not instructed to use our tongues to honor God and His children (James 3:9-10)? Do we not know better, that the way of darkness (which includes our speech) does not have fellowship with the light of Christ (I John 1:6) to which we have committed ourselves to bear (Mt. 5:14-16)?! Let us be better than the world! Let us be Christians!
Being a Christian means remembering and following the teaching of Christ. Jesus was critical of sin. He was intolerant towards those who turned His Father’s house into a robber’s den (John 2:15-16), He was woeful towards those who blasphemed against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29-30), and He was indignant against those who could not under-stand justice and purity (Mark 10:14). But those who Jesus seemed to be most critical of were those who were unjustly critical of others. He railed against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Mt. 23:13-29), He was merciful to an adulterer who was being scolded and judged by those who were murderers themselves (Jn 8:1-10; I Jn 3:15), and He belittled the hypocrites who saw the sin in others but not in themselves (Luke 7:36-47). From the Sermon on the Mount where He instructed us to “Do not judge lest you be judged” (Mt. 7:1) and “…first take the log out of your own eye” (Mt. 7:5) unto His death upon the cross where He cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), Jesus has left us an example and teaching of being encouragers and not criticizers. He has taught us to be caring, and not catty. To be wise, and not witty. To be nice and not nasty. And to be loving and merciful, not malicious and mean.
There are correct ways to be critical. None of this is to say that we do not have a right to stand up against sin. Quite the contrary, we not only have the right, but the responsibil-ity (Gal. 6:1). This is about making sure we do that in the right way. This is about re-minding us what sort of people we are to be, what God’s expectations of us are, and what example we are to be following and leaving. Preachers are critical of other preachers, even though they preach the truth. Single people are critical of the married and the married are critical of the single. Those without kids are critical of those with kids and even parents are critical of other parents. Older generations cast wide aspersions upon the younger, and the younger return in kind. We are being too mean, too negative, too nasty. Our criticizing of others, who are scripturally pure yet do not conform to our likes or wants, has reached a level of critical proportions of its own, and it is time to stop. And it can only stop, with you.
Today, commit yourself to being a Barnabas. Today, commit yourself to being an encourager and not a criticizer. Today, commit yourself to being an optimist and not a pessimist. Today commit yourself to being joyful, and to being a joy giver! Today, commit yourself to being humble instead of a hypocrite. Today, commit yourself to living to love the way Jesus has shown you, rather than living to hate on others. Today, commit yourself to encouraging your friends, family, and faithful brethren unto life, instead of criticizing them to death. Today, commit yourself to being to others, what you want them to be to you. If you can’t commit to these things now, then know when you stand before God in judgment you will know what a critical situation truly is.