We live in a time and culture when everything bad is criticized and most good goes unnoticed. Most often that’s the culture the church and her leaders also adopt. Our eyes are fixed on focusing and magnifying people’s mistakes. There could be so many times, when you would have kept the traffic laws, you never get appreciated for the times you keep them, but you surely get fined for the one time you break them. That system might work well for the world around us. But should the church also adopt it?
Checkout Apostle Paul’s response to a major and divisive issue in the new testament church. Here he goes:
“Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice.” (Philippians 1:17-18 NLT)
Paul does acknowledge that there is a problem, but rejoices over these people for that one good thing he finds in them. Whereas most of us do it the other way round. We ignore all the good things people do, and crucify them for the one mistake they do.
Years back, God taught me this principle, which I still hold dear to, and try my best to practice as much as possible: Never criticize or correct a person you can’t find any good thing to appreciate or praise about. When we criticize someone, it falls flat if its not built on the foundation of genuine appreciation. Here are few things we need to be aware of, as we work on Taming Our Tongue in this one area.
Significance & Necessity
How important is it for us to appreciate people around us, you may ask! We should know that one of the most basic needs of a human being is to feel accepted in the society. And yes, as children of God, our identity is not based on social acceptance, but that still remains to be a basic need under normal psychological conditions.
That is where the devil deceives people by false praise thus deceiving them in order to trap them into his scheme to kill, steal and destroy their lives. If we being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ don’t rise up to the occasion and begin to accept them, we will lose a lot of people in the bargain. Let us be people who will be focused into accepting and appreciating their good.
One of the greatest challenges we would face in developing this habit, and most often this is a genuine concern, it is the fact that we just can’t see the good in the people around us. The reason for that being that most people, including we ourselves are fundamentally flawed because we live in this imperfect and sin stained world. How can we overcome that?
Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. (Titus 1:15 NLT)
That’s the key. The one reason we often find only flaws in others is because we look at them through frames that are stained with struggles we ourselves face. But as Paul said, to the pure, all things look pure. I have often wondered why is it that Zahal is so friendly with everyone irrespective of whether she knows them and their intentions or doesn’t, it is because she loves and appreciates people out of the purity of her own heart.
That is where God wants to take us too. A place where we are comfortable appreciating and identifying goodness in the dirtiest or the worse of the people. Such kind of sincere and genuine appreciation would help them to see themselves the way God sees them.
We also live in a culture, where people tend to take each other for granted. That happens to be the single greatest challenge and threat to the marital, parental and sibling relationships of our time, although it is not limited to only that.
When was the last time you thanked your wife for cooking you that meal? Have you been appreciating your parents for all that they have been investing into your life? Do you intentionally take out time to express your gratefulness to all the people God has placed around you?
I know and acknowledge the fact that not all of them might have been kind to you. But your appreciation and your concern for them will definitely make a God shaped dent on every bitterness and hardness of heart that they carry.
This is the extreme that some people choose to take in order to please people and gain their acceptance. That is not what God expects us to do. I am not sure that even people would like your flattery. ‘People appreciate honest criticism far more than flattery.‘ (Proverbs 28:23 NLT)
Avoid flattery at all costs, while keeping up your efforts to be generous and sincere in your appreciation for the people that God brings your way.
Developing a Culture
Can we work together to develop a culture of appreciating people? A culture is not identified by what you did a couple of times, it is that habit of intentionally and intensely pursuing the activity with a group of people. Can I tag along with my generation and create a culture of appreciation?
I am looking forward to hearing from you. How can we make this into a culture in our public places, at our work avenues and the worship gatherings? What are the other obstacles in our way? and how can we overcome them?