Who in your life do you rely on to be brutally honest with you? How do they help you?
She slipped into your weekly campus Bible study, and you are ready to do your best to impress her. The hospitality time (with warm brownies and cold milk) seemed to click with everyone, the worship segment got everyone involved, and your lesson was well prepared. Your resource group leader (i.e., those who oversee small group leaders) saw you on your A-game.
She walks up to you after the students wandered out after the study, pulls you aside, and you know what’s coming. “How do you think it went?” you ask.
“I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good,” she replies.
That feedback might be a tad deflating, huh? That is exactly how the Corinthian church must have felt after reading the part of Paul’s letter to them that we know as 1 Corinthians 11:17-22. Those were the words Paul used in evaluating their regular communion experience.
Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-22.
Now before you turn in your resignation as a Christian leader and/or follower, please realize that the first century meetings of Christ-followers like those in Corinth were not like the Bible studies or large group meetings we typically have in Chi Alpha chapters across the country. The early church was accepting, yet even proud of its cliques. Rich members got put at the front of the line, while poorer members often went hungry.
So like a good neighbor, Paul addressed the people involved directly and honestly. Criticism can be tough, but praise is sometimes not much better. Think about your own experiences – we ask one another how you are doing, how your class presentation went, even how a Bible study went, and the answer is a quick, insincere, “Okay,” or “Just fine,” or “Oh, not bad.” Often a little honesty would be nice, wouldn’t it?
The apostle Paul loved the Corinthian church. He was not a critic in search of punitive action. He was not hard on them to look for a victim or fall guy. He wanted Christians to grow and mature into everything God designed them to be and to do. Tough love does the trick better than pretty lies. The writer of Proverbs 27:5 says, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.”
Am I suggesting that we declare open season on one another’s feelings and actions? No, not at all. But if we surround ourselves with a bunch of “yes-friends,” the only thing that will grow is our ego.
Find someone who is willing and able to be a Paul to you – loving in rebuke but always in love and honesty. Do not be afraid to show that kind of honesty to others either, as long as you remember your responsibility to help make things better.
Which do you need to work on more – being honest or being loving? Ask God to help you speak the truth in love. Ask for the courage to be honest and the energy to work hard to help those friends you correct. Live communally. An ounce of criticism is worth a pound of praise.
Love is a verb,
©2013 by Mike Olejarz