If the culture of fear has a partner in creating an atmosphere of anxiety, uncertainty and pessimism it is the culture of criticism. The will to and the way of criticism thrives in our society. Often it seems that anyone and everyone with access to a computer or a microphone readily joins in the critic’s chorus without regard to the damage being done.
Obviously criticism has a place. Well-intended constructive criticism shared in a gentle spirit of mutual respect can accomplish needed changes and growth, but in our current culture of criticism there is little place or patience for this. It is all about tearing down with little regard of building up again.
We find in our national and local politics. It is a hallmark in all branches of our media. Unfortunately we discover it even in our churches.
Being a critic takes little effort. There is no doubt that we all can find a reason to criticize anyone or anything if we so desire. If our goal in such criticism is to merely expose mistakes, deflect impropriates of our own, expand a personal agenda or to be destructive, then we represent this harmful and ugly culture. It is simply irresponsible to offer criticism without also offering positive alternatives and solutions.
Jesus was a target of the culture of criticism and was acquainted with its dangers. He used absurdity to illustrate its folly.
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? How can you say to your brother; ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’; when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7: 3-4)
He used the word “hypocrite” in his next sentence and the culture of criticism often appears hypocritical but that seldom slows it down. It grinds on leaving anger, fear, gridlock and failure in its path.
Of all of the places that should eradicate this critical culture the church should be foremost. Yet it exists and has even flourished in God’s family creating pain and division that frequently lingers long after the harsh words are spoken. To this end the Apostle Paul warned:
If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5:15)
His emphasis in this text immediately before this verse was on love- and Christ’s love is the way to eliminate the mean-spiritedness found in the culture of criticism. Love motivates us to do no harm to our neighbors and even when constructive criticism is warranted, love will ensure it will neither bite nor devour.
God has given us clear teaching on how to work together to approach and solve our differences and the way of the culture of criticism is not found in it. (See Matthew 5:21-26; 38-48; 18: 15-22; Ephesians 4:31-32; James 1:19-20; 2:12-13)
Let’s honor the culture of Christ and refuse to allow the culture of criticism any entrance into our hearts and our churches.