Giving and Receiving Criticism in Light of the Cross

My thanks to Justin Taylor for this:

Some notes below from Alfred Poirier’s excellent article “The Cross and Criticism,” first published in The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Spring 1999).


I’m using criticism in a broad sense as referring to any judgment made about you by another, which declares that you fall short of a particular standard.

The standard may be God’s or man’s.

The judgment may be true or false.

It may be given gently with a view to correction, or harshly and in a condemnatory fashion.

It may be given by a friend or by an enemy.

But whatever the case, it is a judgment or criticism about you, that you have fallen short of a standard.

Key Point:

A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion.

In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.


  1. Critique yourself.
  2. Ask the Lord to give you a desire to be wise instead of a fool.
  3. Focus on your crucifixion with Christ.
  4. Learn to speak nourishing words to others.

How to give criticism in a godly way:

  • I see my brother/sister as one for whom Christ died (1 Cor. 8:11Heb. 13:1)
  • I come as an equal, who also is a sinner (Rom. 3:923).
  • I prepare my heart lest I speak out of wrong motives (Prov. 16:215:2816:23).
  • I examine my own life and confess my sin first (Matt. 7:3-5).
  • I am always patient, in it for the long haul (Eph. 4:21 Cor. 13:4).
  • My goal is not to condemn by debating points, but to build up through constructive criticism (Eph. 4:29).
  • I correct and rebuke my brother gently, in the hope that God will grant him the grace of repentance even as I myself repent only through His grace (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

One thought on “Giving and Receiving Criticism in Light of the Cross

  1. Well expressed……….. would that all Christian leaders might receive this…..

    1 Peter 5, 1-7 “The Servant Rule”

    To Elders and young men:
    About Leadership then:

    “The Servant Rule”, not lording,
    But shepherding, and serving.
    The Flock is under your care,
    Overseeing, but clearly aware,
    Not reluctantly as an obligation,
    Not for financial aggrandization,
    But entrusted, willingly serving,
    The faith exemplifying.
    There will be ‘a crown of glory’,
    But submission is part of the story.
    All should be clothed with humility
    Not behaving arrogantly.
    He may lift you up in time due.
    Your anxiety can rest on Him too.

    The Servant Leader

    “It shall not be so among you” :
    Arrogantly lording,
    Self-interest vaunting,
    An authoritarian purview.
    What does God require?
    A vision that’s merciful and just,
    Leaders ‘followers’ can trust.
    A role to which it’s hard to aspire:
    Policies for people they’re serving;
    Action for debt relieving;
    Stimulus for economic reviving;
    Our environment conserving;
    Human need meeting,
    From the Shepherd’s heart beating.

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