Last week Scott Sauls wrote a great piece on what he came to respect most about Tim Keller. It wasn’t his preaching; it wasn’t his leadership abilities; it wasn’t his books. Instead, he noted how God’s grace has seemingly freed Keller to: 1) see the best in people and 2) receive criticism with humility. As I read these two sections of this article, I thought to myself, “Lord, please make me like this. Grant me these qualities in greater measure.”
Seeing the best in people. Sauls notes: “In five years, never once did I see Tim tearing another person down to their face, on the Internet, or through gossip. Instead, he seemed to always assume the good in people. Occasionally, he would talk about how having the forgiveness and affirmation of Jesus frees us for this—for “catching people doing good” instead of looking for things to criticize or be offended by. Even when someone had done wrong or been in error, Tim would respond with humble restraint and self-reflection instead of venting negativity and criticism. Like the grace of God does, he covered people’s flaws and sins. Sometimes he covered my flaws and sins. He did this because that’s what grace does; it reminds us that in Jesus we are shielded and protected from the worst things about ourselves. Because Jesus shields us like this, we should of all people be zealous to restore reputations versus destroying reputations, to protect a good name versus calling someone a name, to shut down gossip versus feeding gossip, to restore broken relationships versus begrudging broken people.”
Receiving criticism with humility. Later on Sauls observes: “Tim could receive criticism, even criticism that was unfair, and it wouldn’t wreck him. In his words and example, he taught me that getting defensive when criticized rarely, if ever, leads to healthy outcomes. He also taught me that our critics, including the ones who understand us the least, can be God’s instruments to teach and humble us.”
Two things for me to remember: May I be freed by the grace of God “to catch people doing good,” rather than complaining and murmuring about how people have treated me unfairly (Phil. 2:1-4), and may I not be addicted to the praise of man. As the ancient sage put it so many years ago: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise” (Prov. 27:21).
God of grace and truth, make me whole, a person of integrity who heals and makes peace. I pray for eyes that see what’s best in others, a graceful and candid mouth, hands that never twist but hold up truth, a heart that aims to encourage, and feet that pursue my neighbor’s best. Amen. (A prayer from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year.)