Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Religion of Correction

I've noticed behavior on blogs and online discussion groups which disturbs me. It seems that there's a tendency for some to feel that it's their job to correct others.

Although discussion can be good and often is helpful, correction is usually inappropriate. I believe comments, when made respectfully, are very appropriate even when they don't agree with the original post. I've noticed, however, that dissenting comments sometimes have an argumentative, superior sounding tone. Instead of sharing personal beliefs and thoughts, comments often become an attempt to straighten everyone else out. Instead of discussing the differences, the comments become a personal attack against the individual.

Darin Hufford has posted a blog sharing his thoughts regarding this problem. I decided to post his blog here in its entirety rather than posting a link because I believe this is an important topic. If taken seriously, I believe his comments can do much to improve the atmosphere surrounding online discussions.

I do want to say that I don't believe this has been a problem with those who normally post comments on this blog. This is a great community of bloggers who understand the need to allow others the freedom to experience their own unique journey.

Religion of Correction

"The modern-day mentality of bringing correction presents an eerie reflection of where Christianity has sunk in our generation. It makes sense that a religion totally void of true intimacy and relationship would perceive that correction would come from a nameless, faceless, cybernaut-stranger who doesn't know us from Adam. Challenging one another to receive correction from an internet-ghost or a complete stranger whom we don't even know is the epitome of what American Christianity has become.

The problem with the mentality that a person can "bring correction" over the internet is that it's just plain unlikely that ANYONE will receive it. Why should they? There is no way in the world that the person who is bringing the correction could know the heart of the person they're correcting. All they are really correcting is a phrase or group of words to which they have inserted a tone and attitude. The majority of the time, when the Lord brings correction in anyone's life, it comes through a person who is already in a deep relationship with the one being corrected. A family member, a close friend or a brother and sister in the Lord who knows your heart will almost always be the one who brings correction. Just as I would never allow a stranger in the mall to discipline one of my children, God is not in the habit of calling upon someone you have no relationship with to administer discipline to you. God knows each of our hearts and He knows exactly what it would take for each one of us to receive a change of heart. With Him, it's not about pointing out our wrongs. That's not what He does. He celebrates our rights. I think most people's idea of correction comes from an upside-down understanding of the heart of God.

It's particularly difficult for someone who is in the spotlight of ministry. When you have written a handful of books and dozens of articles and you have sermons all over the internet and thousands of audio CDs across the world, it's amazing how many people feel "called of God" to bring correction into your life. The moment you don't submit right away, or get a little upset, you're immediately branded as "un-teachable." The average person may receive a correction from a friend or family member about once every six months, while a person in the spotlight receives it about 40 to 50 times per day from people he's never even laid eyes on. I find myself answering for comments I made in sermons I preached five years ago in Arkansas or ten years ago in California.

Probably most frustrating thing of all is that I spend the majority of my time answering accusations that aren't even related to truth. People are either accusing me of saying something I never said, or they're rebuking me for not saying something I actually did say. This is almost always the case. Sifting through all the allegations in an effort to separate the legitimate from the illegitimate can be a full-time job. Then to add more stress, I have to deal with the fact that pretty much everyone who is "bringing the correction" honestly and sincerely feels that they have been commissioned by God. They've sincerely prayed about it before writing me. They honestly feel that they've heard from Him and they fully see it as though it's God and them confronting me together. When I don't respond as favorably as they had imagined, they're totally disillusioned and let down by my "arrogant and un-teachable spirit." That's usually when they leave and try to write an article or two about me in an effort to warn others against me. I won't lie to you. It's exhausting!

I think what amazes me most is the amount of people who can't hear from God to save their life, but when it comes to someone else, they mysteriously become Moses incarnate. I am blown away by the amount of spiritual arrogance. In my generation, it would be downright disrespectful to confront someone older than yourself for the purpose of bringing correction. At the very least, it comes across as patronizing and belittling when someone who is in their 20s feels it's their right and place to confront a person twice their age and with three times their experience. I am constantly shocked at how many people in this generation actually feel they have the right to do that. This is not something that I was taught.

I may not agree with Billy Graham on everything, but I would never be so arrogant as to take it upon myself to send him a letter of correction. I can't imagine ever thinking that way. It's disrespectful and bigheaded. It's just not my place. I trust that God can either speak to him directly or through those who are close to him. It wouldn't even cross my mind to think that it was my place to do such a thing. Today, however, I watch in amazement at how frequently people feel the right to confront and correct everyone, with no regard for age or experience. This, in my opinion, is evidence of social illiteracy, and sadly, it is justified in the name of religion.

I also feel that the desire to constantly correct others is evidence of a wave of social illiteracy throughout our nation as a whole. I can be friends with someone for ten years and NEVER ONCE bring correction to them, yet amazingly, today's generation feels the need to rebuke, reprimand and correct people at every turn. The results of this mindset are disgustingly apparent in today's friendships. There is rarely a real and authentic closeness shared with anyone, because everyone has learned to hide themselves away. People have become more concerned with what others say and how they say it, than they are with their own words and life. We are a generation of control-freaks, and I believe that our modern Christian mentality of bringing correction has been greatly influenced by this fact.

I have found through experience that when God brings correction to me, I am left feeling amazingly excited about it. There is almost never a feeling of embarrassment, guilt or shame for having been wrong. He has a way of doing it that actually makes me happy I was wrong. In fact, every time He has corrected me, it comes out looking like that. It's always a better thing He shows me. The truth He brings to me in those moments is always so much better than what I thought it was, that I actually look forward to being corrected by Him. It's always an exciting experience. His correction bears no resemblance to what we commonly call correction. I have not once walked away from the Lord after having been corrected by Him with a limp or with my head low. God's correction comes in the form of encouragement, NOT criticism. This is the primary difference between what I see with Christians today and how God generally works in our lives.

A pretty good way to tell whether or not you actually were commissioned by God to bring correction to a person is to assess whether or not it worked. Did they receive it? If they didn't, there is about a 90% chance that it's because you weren't the one to bring it. I have found that when something comes from God, people almost always get it. In Scripture, almost every time a person received correction by God, they got it. God has a way of doing it at just the right time, in just the right tone, with just the right words and in just the right way. If the person to whom you brought correction didn't receive it, BLAME YOURSELF! If your words were divinely-inspired, they most likely would have landed right in the heart of the person you spoke them to. The only accounts that I can remember in Scripture where someone didn't receive correction from God is when they were not in the family of God.

Today, however people think that they are divinely commissioned to safeguard topics from bad people. Correction today is about letting someone know that they're wrong on behalf of the topic at hand. Correction in God's heart is always on behalf of the person.

I think the biggest reason why so many people don't receive modern-day correction is because it almost always comes from someone who doesn't give a rat's ass about them as a person. It rarely comes from someone who truly knows and loves them. Today we are more concerned with right or wrong than we are with loving one another. My advice to people is this: if you don't love the person, keep your mouth shut. If you don't know a person, keep your mouth shut. If you are not standing right in front of the person, eye to eye, face to face, and you don't already have an established relationship with that person, keep your mouth shut!

This is a good rule of thumb that I hope all Free Believers memorize. If anyone, after having spent time with you, walks away feeling worse then they did before spending that time with you, IT'S NOT FROM GOD! The message does not need to be safeguarded. God's heart is for people first and foremost. In about 99% of the cases that any of us feel that we should bring correction to another person; we're wrong ourselves. The majority of the time that someone wants to bring correction to another person, they are correcting something that the other person never said to begin with. I have found that the "corrector" almost always has gotten the wrong idea about what the other person said. It's just easier to keep our mouths shut and trust in God."


Free Spirit said...

These are great words, Aida. Thanks for sharing his post.
It does amaze me how this "correction" that people give, is completely rooted in their own arrogance. As if they think they are God's gift thru which to deliver the message. I think you called it a "superior sounding tone." You are much nicer in your wording than I.

Aida said...

I agree. I didn't use the word arrogance in my comments but I did think it. When I originally wrote my comments, instead of the word "superior" I used the words "know it all." I changed it but maybe I should have left it since that seems to be the way this type of correcting comes across.

getting there said...

Beautiful Post!

Aida said...

I agree. I think Darin did a wonderful job expressing what many of us feel. Thanks for commenting.

Kent said...

That's good stuff Aida from Darin.

Aida said...

Thank you, Kent. I agree.