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"Am I Your Enemy Because I Tell You The Truth?"



“…For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:15-16)

One of the hardest things to hear and accept is criticism from another person, even (and especially!) if it is true. Our hearts begin to race, our blood begins to boil, and we often feel the urge to retaliate and defend ourselves.


The apostle Paul understood that it was difficult for people to accept criticism. When he was writing to the churches in Galatia, he reflected on the strong relationship that he had with them when he was with them, to the extent that they would have “plucked out their own eyes for Paul”. However, as his purpose of writing to them was to rebuke them for following the Judaizing false teachers among them (cf. Galatians 1:6-9; 5:1ff), Paul understood that many would henceforth consider him their enemy, even though he was merely telling them the truth.


How do we react to criticism? Does the person criticizing us automatically become an enemy to us, even though he is telling the truth? Here are some ways that we ought to react, when we are criticized.


#1 – LISTEN

It is very common to stop listening and get angry when someone critiques our behaviour. For example, when Stephen was preaching before the Sanhedrin Council (Acts 6:12-15) that the Jews had killed Jesus, the Just One, (Acts 7:51-53), the Jews “stopped their ears” (i.e. covered their ears and refused to listen) and rushed to stone Stephen (Acts 7:57ff).


Do we exhibit similar behaviour, when we refuse to listen to criticism? Do we give the person a chance to finish speaking, or do we “stop our ears” and refuse to continue listening?


#2 – LEARN

Not all criticism is valid and based on truth. On occasion, people will make false accusations and hurtful remarks, just as the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub instead of attributing it to God (Matthew 12:24). However, there are times when others observe us behaving inappropriately, and provide us with a critique that is factual and truthful.


In addition to listening to the person’s criticism, can we make the effort to learn from it as well? After all, we do not want to be fools, but wise. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he that hearkeneth to counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15). Take the time to analyse the criticism, to see what we can learn from it and make improvements.


#3 – LOVE

Having listened to and learned from someone’s criticism of our behaviour, let us remember to continue loving the other in return. We must remember that people who tell us the truth are not our enemies, no matter how much that truth stings and hurts us (cf. Galatians 4:16). In fact, they are exhibiting love towards us, for they are trying to convert us from the error of our ways (cf. James 5:19-20).


Let us continue to love the people who provide us with truthful criticism and feedback. Thank them for their frankness and forthrightness, for it must not have been easy for them to bring these matters up. Listen to what they have to say without interruption, and reflect and learn from it to see if there is useful advice that we can apply. Most importantly, do not hate them or hold a grudge against them for their criticism, for they do not become our enemies just because they told us the truth.

 

May we continually seek to imitate the behaviour of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as the behaviour of faithful men and women who follow him (1 Corinthians 11:1). Let us be willing to listen to criticism, learn from it, and continue to love those who have critiqued us, in the hopes that we change our behaviour for the better.


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