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Before You File the Complaint

“It’s wrong to criticize.”

Who said that?

I don’t know, but we seem to have adopted it as a national moral standard. Tolerance reigns supreme. Everyone is OK except he who dares sound critical.

We sometimes think that’s what Jesus taught. After all, he did say, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). And, it is true that the word he used is a direct ancestor of our word criticize. But, don’t stop reading! In the next breath, Jesus also said, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (7:2).

The clear assumption is that you will judge others. And you do – constantly. It’s unavoidable. You choose friends. You pick a dentist. You vote for a candidate. All of those require value judgments. You adopt a lifestyle. Jesus didn’t say we should never evaluate or criticize; he did both. What he did say was to be very careful how we critique.

There are several guidelines to consider, but the first one to notice is that we should always check ourselves before evaluating others. “First take the plank out of your own eye,” Jesus instructed, “and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye” (7:5).

It’s easy to forget that and to assume that the fault lies with others. An off-duty policeman, familiar with radar speed checking equipment, drove through a school zone under the speed limit but noticed the flash of a camera taking a picture of his car and license plate. Thinking the radar was in error, the officer drove by again; even more slowly. Another flash. He did it a third time, slower still. Same result. So, he made a note to contact the traffic department to complain about faulty equipment. A few days later, he received an envelope from the police department containing three traffic citations - each of them for NOT wearing a seat belt.

Sound like something you might do? We all do. We should evaluate church leaders, politicians, service providers, schools, etc. But, before we start condemning, it might be wise to ask, “What am I doing to improve things? Or, am I part of the problem?”

If someone’s camera is faulty, you might do them a favor by letting them know. But check your seatbelt before you file the report.


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