Calling a Christmas Truce on Criticism

A portrait of a World War I  Christmas truce
A portrait of a World War I Christmas truce (Flickr )

Are you tired of criticism in your church or home? Perhaps you could take a page out of history and declare a Christmas truce with your biggest critics before you start a new year.

On Christmas 1914, a few German soldiers greeted their Allied enemies with "Merry Christmas" in their native tongues. Soldiers from both sides emerged from their trenches to trigger an unofficial cease-fire. On different parts of the western front, warriors shook hands and swapped gifts with their sworn enemies.

This Christmas truce started with one soldier's decision to stop shooting and start talking. If combat soldiers can temporarily bring World War I to a halt, why not us?

"So why do you judge your brother? Or why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ ... Therefore let us no longer pass judgment on one another" (Rom. 14:10,13a).

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Assuming you want world peace to start in your home or church, I have a few suggestions that may help.

1. Start with realistic expectations. Criticism is a curse, not a gift, but most critics don't see it that way. They really think they are helping people (you) by constantly pointing out their (your) mistakes. Let me take some pressure off by reminding you that only God can change a critical heart.

As people of faith, most of us are optimistic that something we say will change others' minds or hearts. But the reality is we can't even change our own hearts, much less a critic's heart. Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies, not change them. I still believe in Christmas miracles, so let's be bold and ask for one.

"If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 12:18).

2. Crack down on criticism. Serial critics often do not respond well to—well, anything. So your decision to stay on the high road must be independent of your critic's decisions. If your biggest opponent keeps on firing away, that does not give you the green light to reload and fire back.

It is important to stop talking when your critic stops listening. Kill the conversation before it kills you.

"In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise" (Prov. 10:19).

First, respond politely, then just ignore them, especially on social media. A conversation is based on a two-way communication. Once the conversation is over, it is time to turn off the mic, because it sometimes doubles as a shovel.

3. Discipline in love. Stopping a conversation doesn't always work, so be prepared to biblically escalate the response, especially if your critic starts sowing discord in your church or home. Managing God's household (or your own) well sometimes involves discipline, which is a form of discipleship.

As a parent, I knew whatever I allowed in my home was condoned. Janet and I did not tolerate disrespect from our kids when they lived at home, which was, of course, tested. Do you think your faith-family should be any different?

"Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. He who speaks evil of his brother and judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge" (James 4:11).

The original Christmas truce was never to be duplicated because those further up the chain of command put a hard stop to it. Christmas is a great time to obey our Commander and initiate a truce in His honor. 

"Therefore let us pursue the things which produce peace and the things that build up one another" (Rom. 14:19).

Mark Dance serves as director of LifeWay Pastors. Mark serves pastors by hosting date nights and roundtables, as well as speaking at retreats, conferences and seminars. Prior to LifeWay, Mark pastored churches for 27 years.

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