The Chastened Critic

Many interpret Matthew 7 to avoid confrontation at all costs. “Only God can judge.” This is a grave misreading.

Study the Bible’s teaching on judgement. It is clear. There is a good judgement and bad judgement (John 7:24). Good judgement is constructive criticism. The goal is to help and bless the person. Love drives this judgement.

Evil judgement is condescending condemnation. The goal is to hurt and burden. Often the goal is simply to win an argument or to protect myself. Vengeance is the motive.

Christ exhorts us to judge righteously. But how can we? When we desire to lovingly confront, self-righteous condescension lies close at hand.


Always be gracious; filled with grace. We will be judged by God. All of us want grace at final judgement. Show such grace to others.

Why are you going to rebuke this person? Do you genuinely hope they will repent? Or do you want to get something off your chest?

Check your motives. Are you going filled with mercy ready to forgive? Or are you excited to expose their failures? Don’t be eager to catch someone else in sin. (We often are that way with someone who has hurt us.)


1 Corinthians 13:7 says love believes all things and hopes all things. At minimum that means give others the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume the worst. If you do not know, assume their motives are well intended. Don’t judge the secret things of their heart that you can’t see. This can lead to much sin.

If someone’s actions seem to point to evil motives, ask them “Why did you do that?” Most are very quick to read into body language, tone of voice and facial expressions. Sometimes our assumptions are right. But not always. Give the common courtesy you would want extended to you. So much of rebuking well means treating others as you would want to be treated.

Even when you do clearly see sin in another’s life still be gracious. If we catch someone in a lie our hearts tend to jump to conclusions. “He is a liar!” we might boldly declare. Technically we are right. Anyone who lies is a liar. But haven’t you and I told at least a lie or two in our lives?

We have an amazing capacity to define others by their sin while we conveniently define sin out of our lives as much as possible. “Yes, I have told an occasional, white lie. But she lies constantly!” Judge others as you judge yourself.


Be gentle. Be humble in hard feedback. Jesus was a carpenter and probably dealt with sawdust getting in His eyes. If you have a speck of dust in your eyes, think about how cautious and tender you are, how slow and deliberate, to softly lift the piece of dirt out of our most sensitive organ. You don’t rush in, knife in hand.

How can I be appropriately humble when speaking to others about their sin? Be thorough in dealing with my own. Do you deal with your sin as aggressively as you desire to deal with others? Few do.

Imagine you and a friend are in a car when a tree falls through the windshield. You actually have a small branch lodged in your left eye. Somehow you still have the wherewithal to notice your friend has a small shard of glass in their eye. You may say as genuinely as possible, “Let me help you with that.”

Your friend will instinctively bat your hand away saying something like, “What’s wrong with you. You’ve got timber sticking out of your face. How can you help me with something so small with something so massive blocking your vision?!”

Before you protest, Jesus’s isn’t trying to say your sin is always the bigger sin. Even if both people’s sin in a conflict is exactly 50%, the speck in my eye ought to look much bigger because it is so much closer to me. I have more direct responsibility for and influence over my sin. Therefore that should, in general, be my first move, towards my own sin.

I had a friend who was addicted to pornography to the point that his wife had asked him to move out for a while. He was stubborn and hard hearted in his sin, refusing to get help. I was going to confront him.

I spent many hours thinking and praying before I went. When I did go, I was able to go in strength and love simultaneously. I was bold and aggressive but also humble and gentle. How?

Years before that I had dealt with pornography personally. I felt the reality of “Save the grace of God, there go I.” I said “I get it. I totally understand where you are and how hard this is. But I’m coming after you in love like I would want you to do for me if the roles were reversed.”

I was gentle in trying to get the sin out of his life was because I knew from experience of dealing with my sin how awkward and painful it is. Go into a rebuke as though you are going into surgery. Be gentle, but also aggressive.


The best preparation for rebuking others is to have a life pattern of aggressively dealing with your own sin whenever you see it. This will naturally make us gracious, generous and gentle. Be a chastened critic. Be as aggressive as you can be in dealing with your own log, partially in preparation for when Christ calls you to deal with others.

The greatest chastened critic of all is Christ. He had no sin to be humiliated for, but He was shamed for ours. He is the great high priest who’s passionate about our holiness but sympathetic about our sin. He speaks the hardest truths to us, but always in the softest ways. Speak the truth to others in love as He continually does to us in His Word.