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Complaints and Compliments

December 15th, 2011

“This man welcomes sinners.” Luke 15:2 NIV

“Jesus took their worst complaint and joyfully embraced it as the highest compliment.”

My thoughts today are about “complaints and compliments.”

As a boy, I remember my Dad teaching me a simple rhyme: “How I dislike the guys who criticize and minimize the others guys whose enterprise has made them rise above the guys who criticize and minimize.” You do not make yourself more by making someone else less. Complaining and criticizing neither wins friends nor influences people.

Criticism hurts! You will find that it is easy enough for anybody to find something or someone to criticize, and many well practiced people do it so effortlessly. I cannot imagine that a critic is ever better for expressing their complaint. Is the person criticized ever better off because of another’s’ criticism? I doubt that would be the usual result.

There is such a thing as constructive criticism, but I think most people experience a lot less of the helpful kind than the hurtful. The Bibles describes criticism that would be constructive and beneficial as, “Speaking the truth in love . . let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:16 NKJV/4:29 NLT. That your criticism is true or that you meant your words in a loving way is not sufficient justification to hurt someone for your own satisfaction.

I suggest that “speaking the truth in love” would better reflect the context of a proven and loving relationship in which the person on the receiving end is historically sure your words are for their betterment even if difficult or momentarily painful to hear. “A friend means well even when he hurts you. But when an enemy puts his arm around your shoulder – watch out!” Proverbs 27:6 TEV. It is possible to use the method of a critic even without having the motive of one.

I would suggest that criticism should be measured out sparingly, and encouragement and edification lavished in large doses. Sincere compliments are much better than well intended complaints. The Pharisees always found something and someone to criticize, and especially seemed intent on criticism of Jesus and those disciples around Him. They did not mean their words constructively nor imagine them helpful. “And the Pharisees complained, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:2 NKJV. And they were right! Jesus was more often around sinners than the self-righteous. They intended their accusation as the harshest of criticism, “Welcoming sinners!” Unthinkable to these proud know-it-alls!

I find it so inviting that Jesus took the worst complaint against Him and joyfully embraced it as the highest of compliments. I say this on the basis of Jesus’ very own words, “I did not come to call the righteous, but (to call) sinners to repentance.” Matthew 9:13 NKJV. I, for one, am forever thankful that Jesus welcomes sinners; that makes me welcome! At Christmas time, I find great joy in the Angels’ announcement at His birth, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to ALL PEOPLE. For there is born TO YOU this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 NKJV. Jesus still is a friend of sinners, and their Savior. And that is good tidings of great joy!

My prayer for you today is that you turn every complaint into a compliment.

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