I heard it said recently that a generation ago the most celebrated verse in the Bible would have been John 3:16 – “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” But nowadays, the speaker went on to say, most peoples’ favourite verse is possibly Matthew 7:1 – “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
In fact, Scripture has quite a lot to say about the rights, as well as the wrongs, of criticism.
1. There is a self-righteous, fault-finding, condemning, malicious, kind of criticism, which is kind referred to in Mt 7:1, and also in Rom 2:1; 14:4; 1 Cor 4:5; Jas 4:12.
2. But there is also a loving, correcting, protecting, kind of criticism, and this is referred to in Mt 7:15; Lk 17:3; Eph 5:11; 1 Thess 5:14; 1 Tim 5:20; 2 Tim 4:2; Tit 3:10; 1 Jn 4:1; Jer 5:31; 23:26; Lam 2:14; Eze 13:6; Mal 3:5; Acts 20:29f; 2 Thess 2:3-6; 2 Pet 2:1.
Three sub-types would be:-
(a) discernment to be exercised by all Christians;
(b) direction, to be exercised by ministers and pastors;
(c) judicial discipline, to be exercised by the church and magistrates.
Our Lord himself distinguished between these two types of criticism – the good and the bad – in John 7:24, when he says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”