Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I've been flamed!

After a recent speaking engagement I received a flaming email. It is not terribly uncommon for me to receive criticism from time to time, but it is mostly good natured. This was a torch. It used phrases like "intellectual recklessness," "ungraceful and unjustified,""overgeneralization to suit your agenda," and "demagoguery."I would go one but it is a bit embarrasing. I was deeply disturbed by this email, not because I was flamed (that is to be expected when one is in the public eye and speaks with passion and deliberate desire to shake loose some cob-webs of complacency). Nor was I disturbed because my detractor happened to be right on at least one issue (I'm vigorously fighting the urge to tell you that the particular issue was a minor point in the presentation . . . that would be self-seeking in such a way that would demonstrate a clear struggle to appropriate John 3:30). What bothered me was (a) my first response to the email and (b) my second response to the email. My first response was to scour through his letter looking for ways of proving him wrong and writing back a flaming email in respose. I'll show him who he's messing with! My second response was to use him as an illustration in class (as a straw-man, of course) for those who ungraciously create straw-men in pseudo-intellectual battle. That would sequester the appropriate sympathy, not to mention some degree of derisive laughter that would prove I'm right and he's wrong. But neither seemed spiritually or ecclesiastically profitable. I wish I could tell you that it was water off a duck's back and I quickly moved on to more productive matters. The truth is I laid awake last night trying to put it out of my mind but unwillingling formulating appropriate responses. I could no more get it out of my mind than a pink elephant when someone forbids you to picture a pink elephant. Why was I so fixated on this? Why did it rob my sleep and welcome me before the dawn? Well it's obvious isn't it? Someone called me wrong and in a way that I preceived as unkind. But if my Father's love was unfailing, why did I need so badly to justify myself in my own mind? Why did I want to prove him wrong? Why was it so difficult to admit that I made a mistake or misspoke? Why? Because I have not yet fully assimilated John 3:30. It is still important for me to promote myself and the frailty of my faith in God's approval can tolerate precious little detraction! God help me. P.S. I have no plans of replying to the email though I have read it again and asked the Holy Spirit to speak truth to me through it. I will now file it away and speak of it no more.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post really hit home with me. There are so many times when I wish I could just get over myself and be more like Jesus. I'm selfish and I enjoy sin, but I guess that's why it's a struggle. It's good to know that a teacher at Ozark is willing to admit what he wrestle's with.

March 29, 2006 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

It is indeed tempting to forget our true audience and final judge when attacked. I too have the urge to settle the score when all along God knows the reality of the situation. I too need help to rest in the fact that God knows the truth and that is all that matters.

March 31, 2006 at 12:24 PM  
Blogger nick said...

Nick wrote, these guys above speak truth in the fullest. it's hard to admit to being wrong. But it's more so if you consider your acuser to be harsh. The thing that i remember most when faced with something like this is, no matter what is going on, i must repay evil with good.

March 31, 2006 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger michael defazio said...

i had a recent experience that is somewhat similar to this one. at the church where i serve we are going through the book of revelation and part of my role has been to deal with some of the more complicated issues. one of the things i did was teach on the various millennial views. there is one group of people, mid to late-twenties, who are premillennial through and through. most of the dialogue has been friendly enough, but after one of the sessions i overheard one of them commenting on how he had kept quiet so as to not embarrass his wife. i don't know why, but i couldn't let it slide and found myself wishing he would actually try and take me on so that i could throw down and make him look silly. i'd like to think that i was free of the need to parade intelligence, but i guess not. at least none of us are alone. i remember something dallas willard once said, "the hardest thing to do is have the right answers and not hurt anyone with them." or something like that. i suppose it's true for me, at least.

March 31, 2006 at 8:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once had someone tell me that you should apologize sometimes...even when you may be right. Maybe this was not one of those times?
Sometimes i think that you could argue for all eternity and yet no one would be completely right...so quiting while your ahead would be helpful and wise. You inspire many and leave a good example for people to follow, in that you admit your faults.

April 3, 2006 at 2:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose the most interesting part about not getting trapped in the sin of self-promotion is realizing who we are...

like when someone gets angry at us, realizing that we ourselves are seeking to overcome just those tendencies.

when someone challenges our vast learning and wisdom on Spiritual issues, realizing that...well, we ourselves don't really know what we're talking about (I think it'd be fitting that if when Jesus comes back...we're all wrong).

when we look at ourselves in the mirror in the morning before we go to preach a sermon, realizing that we only find ourselves in that position because the God of the Universe decided to love us and offer us something we could never attain on our own...

April 6, 2006 at 11:33 PM  
Blogger Dan Hamel said...

Once an annoying person entered into my room talking about a theological issue that he knew very little about. I was a sophomore, there were 2 freshmen in the room, and he was older than all of us. I tried to show him the points where he was in error, and at first it was purely instructional. I do not think it was driven by impure motives (I may be wrong, but think I am accurately representing my heart). But then, after he contradicted me several times, and refused to listen to plain truth I said, "Listen, I have read 3,000 pages on this topic in the past year. You are wrong and don't know what you are talking about." Then I left the room to go to the bathroom. When I came back, he was gone and the freshmen thought I was awesome, they may have even given me a high-five or two. Just a few months ago one of them reminded me of the situation and told me that he thought that it was cool that I could respond that way.
What a sinful example I was setting? I hope Jesus will forgive me.
I hope that I have learned a few things over the past year about John 3:30, but I fear I have many more lessons yet to learn. I appreciate this conversation, even though it reminds me of my ridiculous pride and foolishness.

April 9, 2006 at 7:55 PM  
Blogger Jon-Michael David Brown I said...

I guess I see two relevant issues. One is what God is doing in your life through this experience and second the truth of the e-mail. I think the person can be totally wrong, but God still speak to and shape you through the whole experience. In my experience, I guess I've seen that being right doesn't always mean you will look right, or that you get to declare your rightness. The second issue is the validity of what was said in the e-mail. If it is just an issue of perspective and they are wrong, then there isn't really a need to address it. As hard as it is, especially for me, we sometimes just need to let people think what they want about us, even if it is wrong. If the issues are biblical or concerning larger truth and the e-mailer is wrong. I'd probably dialogue with them. Not for my sake, but truth's sake, except when one is dealing with an irrational person, and there can be no conclusions or understanding found. If the e-mailer is right in a truth or concerning personal motives, I may say "you're right, I'm wrong" as I often say to my wife. Love you, brother! God Bless.

April 14, 2006 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Mark Moore said...

Jon, I know you too have dealt with this. What has been interesting is that since this blog the brother emailed me and we have had a dialogue that is increasingly pleasant. Both he and I have responded in gracious ways. And that graciousness has allowed us to speak our differences in love and in the process to realize that we are not as far apart as we first thought. Love has a way of minimizing differences that pride has a way of maximizing.

April 14, 2006 at 1:06 PM  
Blogger Thom Stark said...

...

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

...

April 15, 2006 at 12:18 AM  
Blogger Jeremy Bacon said...

I don't know if I can speak for Mark or any of the others who have discussed similar situations, but there seems to be more there than just making sure everyone knows you're smart. That's part of it (it's the double-edged sword that leads many great communicators to excel). I think it’s also more than simple self-justification (which is obviously bad).
I think some of the emotion comes from frustration that, like Mark’s example, he did try to make Jesus greater (in his original presentation). Yet something in this other man kept him from seeing Jesus. He got so mad he only saw Mark. It’s hard not to feel some amount of “holy indignation” when we try to point someone to Jesus but they refuse to see past their issues.
I think there is also something profoundly disturbing about hearing someone say something dogmatically when we know they’re wrong. It can shake our confidence. How do we know we’re not being dogmatic about something we don’t really understand? I guess the only solution is some form of “proper confidence” that reaches for truth but acknowledges that we are not and will never be Jesus.

April 20, 2006 at 12:34 AM  

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