The cross looms large and men, women, boys, and girls see themselves as crucified with Christ. The gospel humbles us lower than the most scathing human criticism, but it simultaneously exalts us into God’s gracious favor so that the negative appraisal of our fellow man no longer devastates us.
A healthy church is one that is shaped by the gospel. Our people need to see the beauty of Christ. Nothing will enable them to lovingly and humbly give and receive constructive critique more than heart-searching, expository gospel preaching. This is our great task and privilege as ministers—to proclaim Christ. And as we do, whether we recognize it or not, we will be promoting a healthy culture of criticism.
What is it that fuels both a hypercritical spirit and an aversion to criticism? It is a high view of self. Man criticizes incessantly in order to feel better about self. Man runs from or suppresses criticism directed his way for the same purpose, to protect and promote the self. There is a certain high-mindedness native to us all that is averse to both giving and receiving constructive critique.
At the cross, however, man’s high-mindedness is utterly decimated as he comes face-to-face with the savage heinousness of sin. Sin is insurrection of the highest sort, a rebellious uprising against the Creator and Ruler of all things. While the law certainly does much to show us our sin, it is actually the gospel that gives us the most alarming impression of the infinite affront that our sin is to God.