Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.- Proverbs 27:6
In my last post I provided some commentary on a video that had gone viral. The response was overwhelming to say the least.
I was informed on Saturday by an old college friend that the poet in the video, Jefferson Bethke had responded to the authors of a site that had raised fairly similar concerns to those I raised here. The group, The Gospel Coalition wrote a powerful piece and Jefferson responded in a very honorable way:
I just wanted to say I really appreciate your article man. It hit me hard. I’ll even be honest and say I agree 100%. God has been working with me in the last 6 months on loving Jesus AND loving his church. For the first few years of walking with Jesus (started in ’08) I had a warped/poor paradigm of the church and it didn’t build up, unify, or glorify His wife (the Bride). If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked. If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly… My prayer is my generation would represent Christ faithfully and not swing to the other spectrum….thankful for your words and more importantly thankful for your tone and fatherly like grace on me as my elder. Humbled. Blessed. Thankful for painful growth. Blessings.
Grace and Peace,
A Few Thoughts:
1. Jefferson should be commended for being mature in filtering the criticisms and correction he received. Unlike some of those rushing to his defense, he actually took time to consider if he could have done a better service to both his message and his Messiah. I wrote him and commended him for this. Well done.
2. We have to stop being so sensitive. The scripture is our ultimate authority (sola scriptura- scripture interprets scripture). Our goal as communicators of the gospel message is to stay out of the way. When we add or take away from scripture it is fair for others to ask ‘Where are you getting that if the scripture says something different?’ If I’m doing a faithful job of preaching the word there will be little-to-none of me remaining for me to get in the way. If I’m not in the way, the criticism is of the text, not me. If, however, I am offended it may be because I’m still in the way. Maybe I added too much of ‘me’ to the message of the gospel. It has often been said that the scripture doesn’t need defending; it’s like a lion and if you let it loose it will defend itself.
3. Correction is a beautiful part of our faith. Because none of us have arrived we will ALL likely end up from time to time on the painful end of correction. It doesn’t mean that everyone who corrects is arrogant and mean. I take the most time to correct those in my life I love most. Correction is not identical to condemnation. In fact, correction is the opposite of condemnation. Often the truth is… silence is the greatest condemnation you can receive from someone who claims to love you. In how he carried himself publicly in this, it appears to me that Jefferson did an exceptional job receiving and growing. He will be a better example for Jesus because of this.
4. Correction is hard. No matter how valid, correction is a tough pill to swallow. If correction is unfair and unjustified it grates against our best efforts to follow Christ. If the correction is fair, justified and reasonable, it grates against our own sinful flesh and the desire to be right. In no case is receiving correction fun but if genuine correction for our good and God’s glory is received, look out!
5. There is a huge gulf between biblical correction and blabbering criticism. There is no honor in being a critic but honor is due those who know your heart but challenge you to consider your ways. The critic tries to build self on the trash heap of other’s brokenness. The corrector stands on the pile of their own brokenness and tries to offer wisdom from that mess of mistakes. Both seem to be looking down but one is looking down because they’ve screwed up a bunch, the other is looking down because their self esteem is so small they had to climb up upon others’ to see.
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. -Proverbs 15:32
On a personal note:
I’ve often had a difficult time myself receiving correction. If you confuse correction as criticism, you will be jaded and angry. If you confuse correction for criticism, you won’t trust those who love you most and know you best. If you confuse correction for criticism, you will want to shut down the voices of those who have the most to offer.
I’m so blessed in my life to have people who are not my critics but from time to time they offer a word of correction.
Three Questions To Discern Loving Correction:
1. Is what this person saying accurate? Meaning, are the facts there? If yes, correction. If no, critic.
2. Is this person supporting their view of the facts with a fair presentation of scripture? If yes, correction. If no, critic.
3. Does the person want God’s best for me or do they want to tear me down personally? If God’s best, correction. If not, critic.
If the above are all fair and reasonable then it’s worth going to the Lord and saying “God, I lay this before you, please convict me if there is an area of life where I can improve by receiving biblical correction.” This prayer is far from a sign of weakness. It is an enormous sign of strength. We can NEVER grow without correction. We improve through correction. We try, we fail, we learn, we try again. This cycle will be repeated 1,000 times in our lives.
Correction Better Than The Law:
Biblical correction is not like the actions of the Pharisees or the Sadducees. Their motive was selfish and for their own interests. Brothers and sisters in Christ who want our good, our growth and the growth of our faith are life-givers through their correction. I have no desire to blabber on a web page about someone 3,000 miles away. I don’t have the time or energy and in doing so I don’t find value. When, however, I see a young man with amazing talent possibly steering others off course and then I see so many people I love missing the theological implications I feel compelled by love to speak up.
I received several very encouraging emails since my last post, and I’ve started dialogue with a few who want to grow in their faith. One 21 year old young man recently came to faith in Christ and wants me to help him answer the questions of his friends. Another man has pressed as to why I feel Christianity is right among all world faiths. These conversations wouldn’t have begun had I not posted my response to Jefferson. In the end God works things for his glory and my greatest ambition is to in some way play some small role in his master design.
For my own future I pray I will handle correction as well as Jefferson has throughout this process. I also pray that my generation and the one to follow me doesn’t run from correction because they see everything as criticism. My prayer is that critics get ignored while biblical correction gets embraced.
May I live this out in my own life first.