Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Taking correction

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 11:37-54

TO CHEW ON: "And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him." Luke 11:53-54

Jesus was invited to a Pharisee's home to eat a meal. Apparently He had neglected to go through the ceremonial washing procedure that was standard among those types (a footnote explains: "The washing of hands was not a matter of hygiene but of ritual cleansing to remove any moral pollution acquired by contact with sinners or unholy things." New Spirit Filled Life Bible p. 1411). So the Pharisee "marvelled" that He had not washed. I see this not as a delighted marvelling but as a holier-than-thou, gotcha, gloating marvel.

Jesus was not intimidated. Instead, He launched into a blistering attack against the hypocrisy this washing requirement typified. He called these teachers "foolish" and pronounced woes on each category of leader/teacher (vs. 40-52). He named specific instances where they required things of others that they didn't do themselves (vs. 42, 46). He lumped them in with the prophet-killers of the past (vs. 47-51). He accused the ones responsible for teaching others about God of being the very ones who hindered them from knowing Hm (vs. 52).

Did these men come under conviction, repent or change their ways? Not a chance! Instead they were defensive, and attempted to find something wrong with Jesus so they could accuse Him back.

This story reminds me of an incident related by writer Carol MacKay in a recent issue of FellowScript. One day a guest (she called her Jane) attended their writing group. Jane was outspoken to the point of rudeness. When she asked what people wrote and Carol replied she wrote poetry, Jane came back with, "You're not one of those poets who don't believe in rhyme are you? It's crazy. There's absolutely no point to it."

That day Carol had gathered all her courage and brought a poem for critique. It was a poem that reflected the dark, somewhat gloomy outlook often evident in modern poetry. Though this didn't accurately reflect her own view of life, she had been convinced that this is what she needed to write in order to sell her work.

After she read her poem, the woman responded, "Why would someone write something like this? Where's the point? There's no point or purpose. When I write, I have a purpose: to glorify God."

At this juncture, Carol could have dismissed the woman's critique as coming from an unworthy source. She could have criticized Jane for her lack of graciousness and tried to find fault with what she wrote (the way the Pharisees reacted to Jesus). But she didn't. Instead, she let Jane's criticism goad her into re-examining her work. After thinking about it, she realized there was truth in her words, artless though they were. She decided, as a result of that day, to take her writing in a different direction. She sums up:

"In retrospect that horrible writing group experience has produced more good than it has ill. I don't think Jane's type of critiquing skills are in any way an acceptable method of constructive criticism, but oddly, without her harsh wake-up call, I would probably still be on the same dismal writing path, writing contrary to my faith and values." (Carol MacKay in FellowScript Volume 28, Number 2, May 2010, p. 12-13).

I ask myself, how do I handle criticism? How do you? Do we get all huffy and defensive, try to justify ourselves and find fault with the one who has criticized us? Or do we, like Carol, look for grains of truth in words of correction, regardless of the spirit in which they are delivered?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to have the wisdom and humility to take correction, no matter who gives it or how it is delivered. Amen.

MORE: Resource for writers
If you're a writer, especially a Canadian writer, you should check out the group Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship. As a member, you get a subscription to FellowScript (quoted above) which comes out quarterly, and the possibility of getting to know and network with writers across Canada. Even if you don't join, take advantage of the website (http://www.inscribe.org) -- an incredible resource for Christian writers of any genre.

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.
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