THE CONSTRAINT OF
by David Lemmons
Regarding our work together for the Lord, what is it that can bring about greater dividends than commendation? Can you think of anything? Do you practice this activity enough? Do you search for ways to commend others in a genuine and sincere way (flattery is a form of deception and is not under consideration here)? What does the Bible have to say about such?
The Bible is simply filled with complimentary commendation of those who are faithful and obedient to the will of the Lord! Consider Hebrews chapter eleven. It would seem to me that our lives ought also to be richly filled with similar expressions to worthy ones.
Surely our Lord’s commendation of that one responsible for His pre-burial anointing at Bethany helps us to focus in on the value of words of commendation. This woman was criticized sharply by the disciples, saying, “To what purpose is this waste?” (Mt 26:8). If John 12 is the parallel of this text, Judas Iscariot had even calculated how much the ointment might be sold for to help the poor, not that he cared for the poor (Jn 12:5,6). Jesus, knowing the heart of this godly woman, responded to their ill treatment of her by saying, “Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me” (Mt 26:10). But then, Jesus goes even further to lift the spirits of this precious one by saying in verse 13–Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her. Can you imagine the turnaround of feelings felt here? At first attacked in front of her Lord by His own apostles and then commended highly. Of the two positions, “criticizer” or “commender,” where do I most often find myself?
Jesus often took the role of the Great Commender: (a) the Canaanite woman, Mt 15:28; (b) the confession of Peter, Mt 16:17-18; (c) a poor widow, Luke 21:3.
In the title of this article appears the word, “constraint.” In using this word, I use it in the sense of a secondary definition: The state of being restricted or confined within prescribed bounds [American Heritage Dictionary]. This usage is the same sense in which the Apostle Paul felt “constrained” by the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:14). It was the love of Christ that motivated (confined or restricted) Paul regarding his relationship with the Corinthian saints. It is my strong belief, based upon my study of the Scriptures (i.e., the prescribed bounds), that Christians ought to feel restricted or confined into the position of often commending the good to be seen in fellow Christians.
It has always been a source of wonder to me how many folks seem to want to build up themselves by tearing down the good work of others. This is surely a device of Satan and causes untold harm within the body of Christ. I heard Kate Richardson recently talking about being so ill that she would consider even taking a dose of castor oil. Having tasted that nasty stuff myself, I judged she was feeling extremely bad to make such statement. In a related way, how helpful “a good dose of the constraint of commendation” would provide some brethren.
If we briefly survey the epistles of Paul, noting only the greeting section, it becomes immediately obvious that Paul was quite familiar with the constraint of commendation. With the exception of the letter to the Galatians (with good reason), his introductory words are framed with commendation of good deeds and qualities. There ought be no surprise in this finding in that he lists among the numerous physical tortures accompanying his ministry the “care of all the churches” (2 Cor 11:28). Further is this emphasized in his statement when he points out this care of all the churches was a DAILY one. Can we not deduce from the combination of these two observations that one of the ways we can manifest our own care and concern for the church is to be involved in the same type of commendation?
The “Wisdom Book of our New Testament,” the Book of James, speaks of an inconsistent use of the tongue which should challenge us to follow more completely the constraint of commendation. Consider his inspired warning…”9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 3:9-11). A more consistent use of our tongues will be a wonderful and sweet result from the constraint of commendation. As we commend more, we will judge censoriously less (Mt 7:1-5). Those around us inevitably will observe this as a nice change, especially if we have, in time past, been a great nagger.