Codes, Criticisms and Good Neighbors

Codes, Criticisms and Good Neighbors

Then he began to speak to them in parables.” Mark 12:1

A neighbor once came to our house to compliment us on our yard. She was amazed at how much Peggy and I had accomplished in such a short time. It felt good to have our hard work recognized. We had been putting a lot of time and energy into restoring a piece of property which had been neglected. As we talked, I thought how wonderful it was to live in place where people took the time to compliment their neighbors.

Then my Minnesota conversational filter kicked in. This wasn’t a compliment and she was not here to talk about our yard. She had a complaint. So, I thanked her for her kind words and asked, “So how are things with you?” “Well,” she replied, “Your dog barks an awful lot when you are gone.” I thanked her for letting me know and apologized for our dog. It really was a helpful conversation. In order for us to be good neighbors, we needed to be sensitive to the noise coming from our house.

Every place has its own unique way of communicating. It is often coded to the outsider. This coded language is most critical for maintaining healthy relationships. Especially, when it comes to telling people things they don’t want to hear. Using the wrong procedure can have devastating results.

Have you ever noticed how Jesus often uses parables to tell people things they don’t want to hear? His coded style of communication rarely seeks to soften the blow. Matter of fact, it seems like he cranks up the intensity.  If Jesus’ public ministry had taken place in Minnesota, his parables would have included a gratuitous compliment before a clear, but gentle suggestion for improvement. If in New York, the parables would not exist. They would just be statements of your failure and a command to stop.

The intent of the parables are not to destroy people. Like my neighbor, Jesus desires to improve relationships.  Specifically, improve the people’s relationship with God and each other. Have you ever considered listening to a parable from the perspective of a chief priest, scribe or pharisee? How would you respond to critical words which challenge your views? Would you reject them or learn through them? No one likes to hear criticism, but true community is impossible without managing them. We can’t manage them without listening and responding in love.

Click to read: Mark 12: 1-12

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you prefer to have people present criticisms to you?
  • What style do you use to offer criticisms to others?
  • In what way is your style determined by the culture of your present location?
  • How do you respond to criticisms from scripture?
  • Where do you find hope in the midst of criticism from Jesus?

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