“Stupid” is a word that we discouraged our children from using as they were growing up. That was because they typically used it when they were fighting with a sibling or responding to a decision they weren’t too happy about.
But God doesn’t hesitate to use stupid to describe some of the ways we act. He tells us in Proverbs 12:1:
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.
I’ve had fresh opportunity to apply this verse after the WorshipGod06 conference. While the overwhelming majority of the feedback we’ve received has been positive, there are some who were disappointed or strongly disagreed with aspects of the conference. Responses have either been posted on the web or came on the evaluation forms we asked people to fill out.
Not surprisingly, some of the criticisms are the result of taking words out of context or uncharitably judging motives of those involved. Others have shared their comments sarcastically. I’ve been most grateful for those who have asked sincere questions or offered helpful thoughts for how we could have done things better.
In the midst of the feedback, I’ve been aware of my desire to love the encouragement and avoid hearing anything critical. I tend to have the same attitude after I preach a sermon. But God tells me that if that’s my attitude, I’m stupid. He wants me to LOVE reproof and discipline, not run from it.
Why? I can think of a few reasons. Loving reproof makes me more aware of my need for God’s grace in my life. Loving reproof helps me fight my inherent craving for self-exaltation. Loving reproof is a sign that I need others in the process of sanctification. Loving proof is a way of acknowledging I have blind spots and that I don’t know EVERYTHING.
Here are a few ways I try to cultivate the love of discipline and reproof (and I still have a long way to go):
1. Pray for reproof. That’s right. Ask God to bring people into your life who will point out where you’re making mistakes, sinning, or could do things better.
2. Expect reproof. Be on the lookout for it. I find that when I’m surprised by critical feedback from others, it’s usually because I’m looking for their praise.
3. Ask others for input. That’s why we hand out evaluation forms at the conferences. We read every one of them. They have been invaluable each year for making the next conference better. It’s best to ask people for input when they have time enough to think about it, and are convinced that you really want to hear it.
4. Thank people for reproof. It’s rarely easy to reprove someone else. When a friend approaches me and says they want to share something with me (and I don’t get the feeling it’s encouragement), I want to make sure I thank them for caring enough to give me input, whether I agree with them at the moment or not.
5. Ask questions about reproof. Oftentimes, people don’t say everything they’re thinking. Ask them to elaborate, expand upon, or fill out what they’re saying. It will help you hear it more clearly and respond more humbly.
6. Thank God for reproof. Every critic is a gift from God. God is the one who enables others to overcome their fears and tell us what we need to hear. What an evidence of God’s kindness!
And that’s what reproof from others is – an evidence of God’s kindness. Of course, it’s hard to see that when it’s given thoughtlessly, angrily, sarcastically, judgmentally, or harshly. But I know that most of the feedback I receive from others is not as strong as I need to hear it, and comes from a heart that wants to serve. But even when given sinfully, reproofs remind us of our own blind spots and cast us upon the mercy of the Savior who covers all our sins, and who has provided the only means of our justification before God.
So let’s not be stupid today.