(Friending Series Slide)
All right…Maybe it’s just me, but I think one of the most interesting (and also disturbing) things about our culture is how easily offended we are nowadays.
You can’t say anything to anyone anymore.
I was going to give you a whole bunch of examples of things you used to be able to say to people but now you can’t.
But, I figured too many of you would hear my examples and be offended ☺
There has been a lot written lately on how hard this is making leadership in our society.
Our teachers are struggling because where they used to be able to challenge students to improve and expect support from parents at home…
Now the parents are offended that the teacher thinks little Johnny’s behavior could improve.
I read an article a few years ago that talked about how many small towns in America are struggling to get anyone (literally anyone) to run for public office anymore…
In part because fewer and fewer people can handle the criticism that comes with it.
And as we close out our friendship series, we must talk about how this new development is deeply affecting our friendships
About a month ago, I read an article that summed up this change of friendship well.
Let me read you a portion of it.
Concerning the moral content of classical friendship, its commitment to virtue and mutual improvement, that … has been lost. We have ceased to believe that a friend's highest purpose is to summon us to good by offering moral advice and correction. We practice, instead, the nonjudgmental friendship of unconditional acceptance and support-- We seem to be terribly fragile now. A friend fulfills her duty, we suppose, by taking our side—validating our feelings, supporting our decisions, helping us to feel good about ourselves. We tell white lies, make excuses when a friend does something wrong, do what we can to keep the boat steady. We're busy people; we want our friendships fun and friction-free. – William Deresiewicz
That’s a pretty good summary of the state of friendships in our culture.
I talk to so many people nowadays (and see this on social media as well) that think:
If your friend is not agreeing with you, supporting you, or helping you feel better about yourself, then that’s not a friend you want in your life.”
To me, that doesn’t sound like a friend, but a liar.
WE DO INDEED SEE EACH OTHER’S FAULTS
(The Gift of Feedback Slide)
Now, listen, I’m not saying I want my friends always disagreeing with me and challenging absolutely everything I say…
That’s not a friend either.
But a friend should never support everything I say or do.
Because I’m not perfect.
In fact, far from it.
The teaching of the Bible is that I can nothing good apart from God’s help.
That doesn’t say a lot about my inherent goodness.
And that means I’m going to have a ton of blindspots.
Everybody stand up for a second.
How much of yourself can you see with your eyes right now? What percent of your body?
You can’t see your face.
Or the top of your head
Or basically anything on the back part of your body
Go ahead and sit down
There’s a large part of your body that you can’t see with your own eyes…they’re blindspots for you.
And this also true of things like your character.
There are character defects that I have…that I don’t see.
There are ways that I incorrectly treat people that I’m completely blind too.
Or when it comes to my decision making
There are decisions that I’m making (and you’re making) that are just flat out wrong
But we’re blind to the fact that they’re wrong…we can’t see it
But here’s the thing about friends.
Friends see things you can’t see.
I’m so thankful for my wife…who, when I sit on a kitchen chair at home, and unbeknownst to me, one of my kids got chocolate chip muffin all over it…
as I’m leaving home for an important meeting…my wife will say, “Um, you should probably change your pants.”
It’s a blindspot.
I can’t see it.
But our friends can see ALL sorts of our blindspots.
LET YOUR FRIENDS SHOW YOU YOUR BLINDSPOTS
And here’s the way I look at it
If your friends already see your blindspots, why not let them tell you about it?
Just pretending that you don’t have blindspots, when everyone sees your blindspots…is insane.
Are we that insecure, that prideful, that sensitive, that we can’t admit that we have blindspots and weaknesses?
Too many of you are trying so hard to show that you’re perfect, but listen, I hate to burst your bubble, but your friends already know that you’re not.
The Bible talks often on this subject.
We are going to be in Proverbs a lot here.
Almost every chapter of Proverbs has something to say on this very topic.
If this message hits home with you, maybe start reading the Book of Proverbs tonight or tomorrow morning
(Proverbs 19:20) – NIV
Listen to advice and accept discipline,
and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
When I was in seminary, I had to do a rotation in a nursing home.
And once or twice a week, I would go to the nursing home, walk the halls and knock on a bunch of doors, saying, “Hi…would you like to talk?”
And as I went from room to room in the nursing home, I was blown away:
I’d go in this one room, and the sweetest woman in the world would say, “Yes, honey, please enter…what a pleasure to have you!! Can I offer you some tea?”
Then, I’d go to the next room, and seriously, it would be the angriest person I’d ever met in my life
And they say, “GET OUT OF HERE! I didn’t ask for any visitors! LEAVE!”
The next room would be the kindest person this side of the Mississippi, but in the next room, somebody would throw something at me…telling me to get out
…and on and on it went.
And it was during this rotation, that I developed a theory on life…that has only proven to be more and more true to me over the last 15 years.
And it’s the idea that as we age, we grow into two very distinct types of people.
You can’t easily notice the difference when we’re young, but by the end of life, it’s very pronounced.
The older you get, and the more and more you submit to God’s leading, the Holy Spirit’s fruit-growing-work in your life, and the particularly the advice of your Christian friends…the more you will grow in character and wisdom.
HOWEVER, if you spend your whole life…insisting that you are right…that you don’t need to change…and whoever disagrees with you is an imbecile
You’ll never mature. You’ll never grow.
And eventually, your inability to work on yourself and listen to others will leave you more and more isolated.
Because you’ll believe that anyone who disagrees with you isn’t “for you,” and if they’re not “for you,” they can’t be you friend.
And before you know it, you’re 80, angry, and alone.
And as I went to room after room after room after room, I could not believe how pronounced this was.
There didn’t seem to be anyone in the middle.
But it’s right here in the Scriptures.
If you listen to advice…and you accept discipline (and correction)…at the end, you will be counted among the wise.
This goes back to what I was saying a few minutes ago.
Your friends see your blindspots, why not let them show them to you?
They see where your character is flawed, where your decision making is weak, where you’ve deceived yourself, or motivations aren’t pure.
You could grow so much as a person, as a believer, if you would let other people speak into your life.
(Proverbs 15:22) – NIV
Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.
You’ll only mature to the degree that you let your friends show you your blindspots.
Think about people who are highly successful at their craft
Famous musicians, best-selling authors, Olympic athletes…
Do you know what all of those people have in common?
They have coaches!
Coaches who pick through their weaknesses with a fine comb…
Coaches who have tough conversations with them…
And these successful people let their coaches do that because they know they can’t see their own blindspots…
The same is true for your own life.
You might not be able to hire a famous coach for a million dollars, but you do have friends.
Accept the gift of feedback from your friends…
It will allow you to see something about yourself that you can’t presently see
IRON SHARPENS IRON
I’m not saying this will be easy.
To go to your friends and say, “Hey, I want you to feel the freedom to call me out if you see me in sin…or treating people wrongly…or operating out of ungodly assumptions…or drifting from Christ.”
If you see something I don’t see, tell me.
Now, tell me kindly…and with respect and love…but tell me.
To ask for that kind of feedback is hard.
Hearing them actually tell you…even harder.
It will require us to lower our pride.
If you want to become spiritually mature, you’re going to need to grow in the chief virtue of humility.
And listen, the Bible doesn’t say that this process is going to be easy
(Proverbs 27:17) – NIV
As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.
God has placed friends into your life to help sharpen you as a person.
To help you mature and grow in Him.
But look at the analogy
He doesn’t say, as soft fuzzy puppies comfort one another, so one person comforts another.
He says, as IRON sharpens IRON.
Let me give you an example of this from my life:
When is the first time a pastor typically gets feedback on his message?
After he gives it.
And after years of doing this…well, actually a decade…
I had decided that this wasn’t the best process.
See, I would show up every week to House Groups, and my small group leader back then, was Chris Blatchley…a brilliant guy in our church.
And what felt like every other week, he would say, “You know when you said the thing about the thing…that wasn’t right.”
And I would cringe and say, “you’re right! Where were you a few days ago!”
And so I decided I would choose a team of 10 people from our church, and each week, on Wednesday, I would send the draft of my message to two of them
And I would let them rip it to shreds.
And say, “I wouldn’t say it that way. “
“That not even factually true.”
“Have you thought about this idea?”
And so on and so forth.
And by the time I started this process, I had already preached over 500 times in my life without anyone, EVER, giving feedback to my message before I gave it.
And let me tell you, in the beginning, when their iron (PICK UP IRON ROD) first started to strike my iron…
There used to be a woman named Karis that attended our church.
Great, Godly woman…very bright.
She’s moved out of state now.
But when I first started my feedback team, she was on the team.
And I used to get her feedback, read it over, and I can remember, multiples times, saying to Lindsey, “I need to go for a walk.”
And I would get up, leave the house, and start my angry walk, saying, “That Karis! She doesn’t even know what she’s talking about. Who is she to tell me! She’s not a pastor! She hasn’t been preaching this long!”
Even though she was right and her thoughts were actually spot on…the iron hurts on the first strike.
However, accepting feedback is a muscle that you can (and must) build up.
But unfortunately, for almost all of us in America that muscle is completely atrophied.
There’s nothing there.
And so whenever ANY criticism strikes us, “We’re offended!”
But I’ll tell you, after years now of getting constructive criticism by my team every single week, the criticism barely phases me now
My feedback muscle is getting built up.
And it’s making ME sharper
OUR INABILITY TO ACKNOWLEDGE OUR DEEP SINFULNESS
And I’m thankful for it, because sometimes I need to hear feedback about my life…from my friends…and accept it.
True friends are the ones who will give us feedback when no one else will…and when even we ourselves don’t want to hear it.
(Proverbs 27:5-6) – NIV
Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
That’s saying that if your friend needs to rebuke you (to tell you strongly that your life is going in the wrong direction)…
If your friend rebukes you, and it wounds you…
You can trust them…because they’re your friend.
But the ones who never-ever bring your blindspots into the open…the ones who just continue to multiply kisses and compliments into your life…
They are actually your enemy…not your friend.
One of the best things you can do is to let your friends know you are open to hearing their feedback.
That doesn’t mean you need to let everyone in the world give you feedback.
Learn to listen to the people who know you best and whom you trust.
But this also doesn’t mean that you don’t ever have to listen to anyone who isn’t your best friend.
I hear this kind of thinking ALL OF THE TIME nowadays.
People say, “They don’t know me, so I’m going to write off everything they say. I don’t have to listen to the haters”
Now, I’m not saying you need to bathe your ears in the words of your critics…
But be aware of your pride here too.
This always makes me think of one of my all-time favorite Spurgeon quotes:
“If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” Charles Spurgeon
The reason we get so angry when we hear anyone critique us is because our view of our own humanity is too high…it’s not Biblical
We think of ourselves as someone who is “right” and generally does what is “right”…
“…but when someone points out that we are actually quite wrong (in our thinking or actions), but it’s in some place we can’t see…
Because we can’t handle the idea of being that sinful, or that wrong, the only recourse we have left is to claim that we’re offended and then discredit them and their comments.
When we get all offended by another person’s comments, it says more about us, than it does about them.
If we would understand what Spurgeon is saying, we’d probably just be thankful that they don’t know the worst about us!
If you find yourself always offended, it’s probably because, in your pride, you haven’t yet come to grips with how sinful you truly are.
Remember what Jesus taught us about our own humanity.
(Luke 18:9-14) – NIV
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Look at what Jesus said there
The man who was so deeply aware of his short comings…
The man, who, had let his friends point out his shortcomings…
That’s the man that’s who’s looking at his life and saying, “God, I don’t see perfection…I see a mess…have mercy on this mess.”
That man, (not the other) is going to have God move in His life.
But see, if you’re always easily offended, you’re never going to grow into who God wants you to be.
You’ll be like the Pharisee that believes they’ve already arrived…and anyone who suggests otherwise…is wrong, and judgmental.
Beware of falling for false theology here.
There’s a lot of false theology which is simply Biblical doctrine watered down by American culture.
Yes, Christians, God has forgiven you…and accepted you as you were.
But just because He accepted you, doesn’t mean He wants you to stay that way.
God has given us His commands, so that we could, not only find life for ourselves, but also glorify Him by how we live!
And you can accept God’s feedback in your life because you know deep down that it’s coming from a place of love!
He sees the worst of you, and still died in your place…out of love.
And so when He convicts you and tells you there is a better way to live…
You can trust Him, because He loves you!
And I pray our friendships can reflect Jesus in the same way.
That we can, gently, and out of love, show each other our blindspots.
And that we would hear the feedback from our friends, and trust them…
Because we know that they will stick with us through whatever may come.
Just like Jesus has for us.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.
JANUARY 26, 2020