Jesus talks to his disciples about their judgmental attitudes. He tells them that the way they judge others will come back on them when they stand before him on judgment day. In Matthew 7 we read, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” This seems serious and something of which all Christians should take careful note.
As you continue reading Matthew 7, it is obvious that the essence of Jesus’ concern is that we should be led in humility. We should have a priority concern about the way we approach making judgments just as much as the accuracy of the correction itself. The fact that Christ is more concerned about the log in our own eye compared to the speck in somebody else’s tells us that humility and approach is as important to him as accuracy. Hyper-critical people tend to focus much more on the accuracy of dogma than the approach. They are more concerned with people being corrected and the truth being proclaimed than they are with how it comes across. Jesus seems to be equally concerned with both dogmatic accuracy and approach. We see this clearly shown in many passages.
1. Matthew 7:3-5. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Jesus is clearly showing that it is right and good to approach a brother or sister about error or sin in their life. He is also showing that it is only right and good if that approach has an air of humility with a desire to prioritize your own sin. When we only see ourselves in the right, we are blind guides to anyone we seek out.
2. Galatians 6:1-3. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Paul encourages the Galatians to restore brethren who they find in sin. It is not simply a matter of telling them that the bible teaches that what they are doing is sinful, but Paul exhorts the Galatians to approach the situation with gentleness. If they ignore the approach that Paul is talking about, they will run the huge risk of falling into sin themselves. They are not to simply correct dogma but to actually come alongside the sinning brother or sister and bear their burden as they seek to repent and obey their Savior.
3. 2 Timothy 2:24-26. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
In his instruction to Timothy, Paul encourages him to keep away from quarrels, be kind, be patient, and use gentleness. Of course, also within this text are the words, “teach” and “correct.” If those words are separated from the approach, Timothy will be disobeying Paul’s command as an Apostle of Christ.
Sometimes I have heard the objection from people that Paul was firm and hard-hitting when he needed to be. This has often been used an excuse for our own lack of gentleness. The fact that we have a description of Paul’s words in apostolic authority to churches to deal with issues among them does not negate that Paul also tells the churches how to do it. Often when you read more carefully and fully, you find that Paul is gentler than these critics give him credit. After all, he opened his toughest of all the letters by calling the Corinthians his brethren. They were in an obvious mess but his love in the first chapter simply leaps from the page.
Criticism/correction is not wrong, but it can be. These texts clearly show that correction is wrong when it is not accompanied with a humble attitude of gentleness and love even if the dogma is accurate. If we are concerned for the authority of the Scriptures, then correcting dogma is only one aspect of the realm of that authority. If we camp on correction, we will be hyper-critical. If we are serious about the authority of the Scriptures, we will also obey that authority when it comes to approach. We can turn the hyper-critical attitude into one that sincerely loves the object of the correction and is willing to do the hard yards in walking with them in their journey. This is the only way we can truly claim biblical authority – if we are willing to submit to both its teaching on dogma and approach.
Remember one other thing that Paul says. If we have all the rhetorical ability in the world and even able to speak with the tongues of angels, and do not have love, we are just a clanging gong. We are a loud noise that means nothing. So instead of speaking out about everything and everyone that is wrong, how about exchanging a hyper-critical approach for a biblical one. How about sitting down with the wrong-doer and loving them as you speak truth in a way that edifies. How about living out the full scope of the authority of Scripture.