Question:

Can a Christian be a social critic, such as a lawyer or a journalist dealing with a corrupt government? How far can he go in criticizing?


Answer:

  • John the Baptist ended up in jail because he told the current ruler that he wasn't properly married. "But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison" (Luke 3:19-20).
  • Jesus listed out in detail the faults of the leading men of Israel in Matthew 23. For example, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence" (Matthew 23:25).
  • Paul gave a detailed description of why the Greek society of his day had fallen into chaos in Romans 1:18-32.
  • Paul also noted that the Cretan society encouraged ungodliness. "One of them, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith" (Titus 1:12-13).

None of these rebukes were given to simply make a person feel miserable. They were given to point out a weakness in the hopes of making an improvement. "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29). Thus a Christian doesn't criticize to tear down, but to clean up so that building can take place.

Criticism should also be limited to there being a need. You can always find flaws in others, but all flaws are not important. "Do not strive with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm" (Proverbs 3:30).

Too often people are quick to tear down, but don't take thought in advance what will be needed to build back up. They don't think through the consequences of their rebukes. Worse is not making sure that what is being criticized is actually wrong. "Do not go hastily to court; for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor has put you to shame?" (Proverbs 25:8).

Can a Christian advocate change in his government? Of course. But it isn't change because of discontent with current circumstances. The Christian sees a flaw that is wrong, argues for the removal of the flaw, and its replacement with what is right.