John Calvin – Speaking Freely to our Neighbor

John Calvin 2As I warned (or whetted your appetitie, I hope), here is another very encouraging quote from John Calvin about avoiding the extremes of excessive criticism, or needless and dishonest flattery. His thoughts are based on Paul’s example when he admonished Peter about his temporary fall into hypocrisy, an account recorded in Galatians, chapter 2, and which I think all of our home fellowships have studied recently.

This post is from the December 6th meditation. I have also included at the end some thoughts and questions for application that are given by the editor (Joel Beeke) of the book 365 Days with Calvin.

But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, if thou, being a Jew, livest after the mannter of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? – Galatians 2:14

We know how important it is to feel at peace with the world. We are like this because we think we will have no friends unless we tolerate our neighbors.

Well, indeed, there is a kind of forbearance that is commendable. It involves being gentle when we rebuke those who have fallen, always seeking to draw them back in a friendly way. We must not be too harsh, for if we constantly are ready to reprove others, we only exasperate them. Too many people are continually on the prowl for something they can attack; their holiness amounts to nothing more than mocking one person or chiding another. In short, they are the world’s greatest critics.

We must keep ourselves from such attitudes and not always be waiting to reprove others. However, the kind of flattery which surrounds us today is also a sin that we ought to shun as we would a deadly plague. So let us learn that to love our neighbor, we must speak freely to him, as Paul does here, espcecially when God’s truth is at stake. We must not fear anyone, for the zeal of God must rise up within us and overwhelm us. Even if that means we acquire a bad reputation and become the object of all kinds of calumny and slander, nevertheless, we must enter into combat.

We must follow the example set for us here by Paul. What he did with his companion Peter ought to serve as a law and a rule for us. We must prove that we want people to listen to God and not to exchange his truth for a lie. Also, we must teach that no one should obscure his truth or add leaven to it. The thruth must remain in its purity and simplicity.

FOR MEDIATION: It seems that we are often falling into one of two extremes: constant criticism or flattery. We should pray for the grace to know when to praise, when to criticize, and when to remain silent. Is your tendency toward excessive criticisms or compliments? Know this tendency and be careful not to slip into one extreme or another.

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