Biolans should hold each other to high standards

Shaefer Bagwell argues that the Biola community needs to improve at making and accepting criticism.

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John Buchanan/THE CHIMES

Shaefer Bagwell, Writer

There’s a phrase I use sometimes. Recently, though, I’ve come to hate and fear it: “C’mon … Don’t be that guy.” We use this phrase when someone around us is doing something we find distasteful. What I’ve noticed at Biola is that the distasteful things prompting the use of this phrase generally have to do with accountability. You look at your friend and ask them if they really feel OK with sliding and gliding at Missions Conference or sneaking in through the dishwashing line at the Caf. They look at you coldly and say, “C’mon, bro, don’t be that guy.”

My fear of this phrase surrounds social acceptance. Nobody, not even in Christian circles, likes having someone point out their moral flaws. It makes a person feel like they’re less-than, like the one holding them accountable is being “holier than thou” and that somehow they’re on a lower ethical playing field. The natural response to those feelings is defensiveness, hurt and anger. When faced with these reactions from our friends, our natural inclination is to let their misdeeds pass by silently.

There is a huge problem with that reaction. When we stop holding our fellow Christians to the standards the Bible sets for them, it degrades the entire community. Sin affects everyone, not just the sinner. When sin goes unaccounted for, it hurts the people who are subjected to it, it hurts the people who witness it and it hurts the sinner. When we fail to speak up to our friends for fear of their reaction, we do an injustice not only to ourselves, but to our friends and our community.

A classic example of this problem is the dress code at this school. There is no enforcement policy in our dress code; Biola expects its Christian students to hold each other accountable to the standards that we have set forth. The Student Handbook speaks about the way we dress being a vital part of our witness. Modesty is a biblical principle, one modeled by Christ. The handbook specifically does not provide punishment or a warning system when people are dressed immodestly. Instead, it asks that students “hold one another accountable to the aforementioned standards of dress in a manner of genuine love and concern.” When we shy away from this duty for fear of a negative reaction from our friends, modesty falls by the wayside. The result? The diminishment of our witness and our community.

I propose that we at Biola need to become better at both sides of this equation. Paul taught us how to hold our brothers and sisters accountable for the sins in their lives. The first step to this must be humility. As a community of believers, we must take responsibility for the interpersonal effects of our sin, and be humbly prepared to recognize that when our friends and loved ones point out sin in our lives, they are doing so out of love for us and concern for our walk. We each individually need to reform our hearts to accept loving criticism.

Of course, for that to happen, loving criticism needs to exist. We need to change the way we hold each other accountable, doing it from a place of love and humility. We should desire to affect one another’s behavior for the betterment of our walk and our community, but not because we like to catch each other doing things we shouldn’t. A “gotcha” mentality must have no place here.

In short, everything we do in this arena must come from a place of loving humility. As a prideful person, I know that this is hard. Humility is probably the thing I struggle with most. But I have to try, and I would challenge you to try with me.

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