The irony behind our acceptance of correction is this: We agree that we are totally depraved. We agree that if it were not for the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, we all would have no hope and on a highway to hell. Some even talk about their depravity with a hint of boasting.
What would make us then so defensive when we receive correction or criticism? Do we not deserve it? Receiving correction from someone else can be unpleasant. This is especially true when the other person is doing it without love or grace, aggressively pushing their own agenda.
We tend to quickly get on the defense and concoct immediately rebuttals that will thwart the arguments presented to us. Even when people present us with correction who do it in a gracious matter, it still can be painful albeit more palatable. This happens because correction perpetuates within us a change that is much-needed but rarely desired.
If we want to function from a distinctly gospel-centered position, we must be able to receive correction well. Not with our teeth grinding and our knuckles losing circulation. Not with social media ammunition to disseminate our critics. Not with a spirit of being unteachable. The problem is that rarely do we accept correction as we ought.
James the Apostle, in the third chapter of his letter, explains how fools accept instruction. Fools usually are unable to accept instruction or correction because of three main reasons: They are not wise, they are full of bitter jealousy and they function from selfish ambition.
1. Lacking wisdom. James says that if you are really wise, then this will naturally be demonstrated in your life. How do we get this wisdom? It comes from above. It is a gift. When we acknowledge Jesus as Lord over our life, we become recipients of this wisdom. It is then a conscious decision we make every day whether we will exercise this wisdom or restrain it.
2. Bitter jealousy. James is not talking here about being jealous that someone has something that you do not have. This bitter jealousy is an aggressive desire to promote your own opinion and discount every other opinion that comes your way. It is a spirit of unreasonableness. It is a position that one takes when they think every one around them is wrong and they do not stand corrected. This is the typical position of a fool. Everyone sees that they are wrong. Some attempt to correct them. The fool however remains bitter and does not want to get better.
3. Selfish ambition. This position works entirely from self-interest. What would make you accept correction when it is evidently contrary to your own agenda. Fools do not see the filth that they are involved in. They quickly discount rational and gospel-centered correction addressed at them. This is a dangerous position. Because you have literally closed off every single person who can potentially speak in to your life.
When we accept instruction as fools do, we are aggressively opposing the gospel of Jesus. James says that if you are not wise, if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition among you — do not boast about this folly of yours and do not position yourself to be someone who loves the good news of Jesus. Because obviously you are assuming a position of another gospel.
Many of us are fools for the wrong reason. Paul calls us to be fools for Christ not because of jealousy or selfish ambition. Be vigilante the next time you receive instruction or correction from someone.
Understand your depravity and function out of that mentality — because this will keep you humble — and you will continuously be running to Jesus for wisdom that can only come from him.
Question: What makes it so difficult for you to accept correction? How often are you a fool when receiving instruction?