Sanctification (the process of how a Christian becomes more holy) has three basic steps (Ephesians 4:21-24 and Romans 12:1-2):
- STOP – Spot the sin and stop it
- RENEW – Think about the sin and its replacement with a Bible-informed mind
- START – Select a replacement and do it instead of the sin at the next temptation
Let’s apply it to the temptation to say and think something hurtful in response to a criticising comment by another. Here are a selection of common responses to being criticised. Which one do you normally use? What thoughts in your mind produce such an instinctive response?
- Response A: “So you are criticising me for being critical?”
- Response B: “If I want your opinion I’ll ask for it.”
- Response C: “So you are the expert on criticism are you?”
- Response D: “Like what? Give me some examples?”
- Response E: “Why don’t you take the log out of your own eye first?”
- Response F: Roll your eyes and walk away
- Response G: A sarcastic “Thanks.”
- Response H: “No, I’m not.”
- Response I: Silently ignoring it as though you didn’t even hear it.
Hopefully we are all in agreement that not one of these responses are profoundly righteous. So, step 1 of becoming more holy is to spot your wrong instinctive response and stop it. Step 2 requires of you to analyse what thoughts led to such a response, and more importantly, what thoughts can help formulate a righteous response. Proverbs 15 is very helpful in this regard. Here is a sampling of Biblical mind-renewing truths from Proverbs 15.
- v 1 – answer with softness
- v 2 – answer based on knowledge (truth) not emotional hype or logical tricks
- v 3 – realize God knows exactly what happened and what is happening now
- v 5 – I need to value reproof
- v 9 – the LORD loves it when I pursue righteousness, so make righteousness, not self-justification the goal
- v 12 – don’t be a scoffer
- v 23 – there is sweet joy as a reward for handling this situation rightly
- v 24 – every prudent response is a step closer to life and a step further from death
- v 28 – never answer without thinking of truths like these.
To put these together with some of your general Bible knowledge, your thoughts can be improved by thinking along these lines before answering the critic:
- The person followed the Biblical pattern of speaking to me directly (Matt 18:15), that is noble.
- I do indeed hate sin, so I should value reproof, so I can at the very least say “Thanks”
- God knows the reality (Pro 15:3, 11) – He will vindicate me if the accusation is false and judge me if the accusation is true.
And so, even though only a second or so has passed since receiving the criticising words, you can respond with “Thanks for letting me know. I appreciate it.” and then follow it up with introspection and when necessary repentance and restoration.
The hard work of sanctification lies in that Step # 2. Use this example to think Biblically in every temptation.