From where I sit, it appears that ‘criticizing the leader’ is our new national sport! President Obama is regularly subjected not just to observations about his policies, but harsh criticism about everything he’s done by the panels on FOX. If you listen to the critics on MSNBC, the current crop of Republican candidates cannot do a thing right either. Mitt’s too rich to serve. Newt’s had too many wives. Santorum’s a wanna-be. Uncle Ron’s suits don’t fit. A nasty streak runs wide and deep in America at this time. It has infected many of us, robbing us of perspective. Critical, demanding, cynical people abound. While I can find much about which I disagree in our politicians, I am both respectful and admiring for anyone would step up and go into public life.
So, who is your biggest critic? Are you trying to live around their cutting words, but finding that a thousand tiny slices are killing you? Criticism has a place, really, it does! None of lives wholly. There are blind spots, failures, and little hypocrisies that only can be seen if shown to us by someone unafraid of the truth. Proverbs reminds us that “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Proverbs 27:6, NIV) Yet, it seems to me that criticism is far overdone in our culture. Just as a steady drip of water can erode even a stone; a constant drip of criticism can rob us of confidence and hope for the future.
The book of Acts tells us about one Joseph of Cyprus who became known by his nickname – Barnabas – “which means Son of Encouragement.” (Acts 4:36, NIV) He invested himself in the people of the fellowship, giving time and money to the cause. He looked out for the rejected, lifted up the broken. His was a service of encouragement, not the hollow flattery that is too often passes for encouragement, but the soul-deep love that changed a whole culture! Barnabas was no ‘Sam Sunshine’ who lived in a laa-laa land of nice. Yet, he was a man who stood with those he regarded as his brothers and poured himself and the Spirit into their hearts.
In Romans 12:8, we learn that encouragement is one of God’s gifts to His church. While all are responsible to urge others to finish well, to stand in the faith; some of us have the gift of encouragement. We can, with eyes of the Spirit, see potential in others and call it into existence. More than “I believe in you,” this gift actually speaks the truth into the heart of another. It’s an infusion of vision and faith. Have you mistakenly concluded that the only ‘truth that heals’ is that of criticism? The honest, Spirit-inspired, hope-filled words of a Barnabas can be life-transforming!
Here’s a word from the Word. My prayer is that I will respond to it with obedience and become a real encourager. Will you join me in this ministry? “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:5-7, NIV)