Lately there has been a lot of criticism aimed at my wife and me simply because we fell in love and married each other. Some of it has been heavy to bear and other bits have been down right laughable. In one of the laughable cases a close friend reminded us, "Consider the source". She was right in pointing this out because the source of criticism came from a very dark and confused place. Some people who are in that dark and confused place in life often reach out with criticism of others in order to be distracted from their own messed up life. It is often how bullies are born. Now, as I read the Scripture this morning, I am reminded of that advice, "Consider the source".
I always thought of that advice as something that indicated we should look at the life or the record of the person in question. This examination does not have to be as a result of criticism that they are expounding; they may have entered the filed of gossip, or advice giving. Regardless, I thought "consider the source" meant to examine that person's life, and it may mean exactly that, but, due to the Scripture this morning, I realize that for Christians in means a little bit more. As Christians we need to be open to the true sense of criticism, when a person may critique our actions or our words from the perspective of the Spirit. We must always be open to correction, but we need to make sure that we consider the source of that correction. Listen to what Jesus had to say to the Pharisees on a point of correction:
Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. (Matthew 12:33-35)
"Consider the source" takes on a new depth of meaning as we apply these words. Of course, with Scripture, we must always apply it to ourselves first. What is the condition of my heart? Am I totally surrendered to Jesus, giving him priority over everything else in my heart and life? Is the fruit that is being produced in me coming from a good heart, that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are being produce by the Spirit of God in me.? Now, having realized that this is what I desire for myself, I should also look for this in the lives of those I will allow to speak into my life. I should be considering the source of the words that are attempting to have an effect on me because the source is vital.
Words that come from a wrong source will tear down with no desire to build up. They are intended for evil not good. They come from a wrong heart that can only see the faults and mistakes but also cannot see the good and the bright future of change. Mean and hurtful words are used as jackhammers, slamming away at the surface of our heart, to wound and destroy. A heart possessed by the Spirit of Jesus Christ would never do this. When words of correction are spoken from a good heart, from a good source (Jesus in us), they are always spoken with the intention to lift us up to a higher place. Some brokenness may be required but these are wise words that tear down the wrong to lift up the right.
Why would we choose to allow a wrong source, an evil source to speak into our lives? That is foolishness. They may speak with the best of intentions but consider the source. What do they know of love when they reject the very definition of love; God is love? It does not mean we hate them or reject them but we refuse their words to have any power or effect over us. We need to love them and be patient with them but we do not need to accept their words. Sometimes we react to them by attacking them. Take your example from Jesus who never defended himself from them but instead warned them and taught them. He did not take it personal because he would not accept their words into his life but he took advantage of the situation to warn them about their own condition and to warn others to be wary of them.
Some of you allow other people's opinions to burden you too much. Consider the source of those opinions. If you are offered advice, direction or even a critique from a person who demonstrates good fruit (not good deeds but the fruit of the Spirit) then you should consider those words carefully. However, if words come at you from a source that you recognize as not being submitted to the Spirit, to Jesus Christ, then let those words fall away and have nothing to do with you. Jesus said to the religiously minded, "how can you who are evil say anything good". I know we do not like to call people evil but remember that those who are without Jesus are the enemies of God. The Father still loves them and is desperately trying to rescue them from that evil but that does not make them less evil.
Keep that in mind as those who are without Jesus try to speak into your life. Remember as well that those who label themselves as Christian are not necessarily possessed by Jesus. This is the reason Jesus told us to look for the evidence of the the good heart which is the sign of the good fruit (not good deeds) that is produced. A good tree does not produce bad fruit and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. So, consider the source, and let that which is of God remain and that which is evil fall away.