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Caveat: I am not downplaying or minimizing the hurtful words from harsh people, but I do want to establish a presupposition for you to filter any negative comments, whether they come from thoughtless individuals or helpful friends.
It’s needful to remind yourself of how horrible you were before God imposed Himself into your life (Ephesians 2:1-5). Paul never forgot the condition of his soul before the Lord found him (1 Timothy 1:15).
The context of the following response is between two genuine friends, who care for each other. If you do not have this kind of reciprocal relationship, please ask the Lord to bring an authentic redemptive friend to you.
Thank you so much for being courageous enough to bring correction to me. I now know you love me because of your willingness to fight through your fear of others struggles (Proverbs 29:25) to help me (Galatians 6:1).
The Bible is right (2 Timothy 3:16-17): faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are profuse (Proverbs 27:6). Thank you for not being my enemy (Galatians 4:16). You are demonstrating your friendship and affection for me by correcting me. For that, I am grateful to God for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
And even though I am thankful for your correction and realize you have brought some things to my attention that I need to work on, I must let you know how your observations are somewhat incomplete. You only mentioned one thing that I need to change.
Though my response may surprise you, I must inform you that you are working with incomplete data. You do not know me as well as you think you might understand me (1 Corinthians 2:11).
The worst news and what you are not aware of is I have been sinning much longer than our brief relationship (Romans 5:12; 1 John 1:8).
The harder truth is I have sinned so much in my life that it would be impossible for me to recount all of the bad things that I have done (Job 5:7; James 4:17; Jeremiah 17:9). It’s complicated (James 2:10).
This admission is not a boast by any means (1 Corinthians 1:31). I suspect if I could pile up all of my sins, it would far surpass anything that you have done (Matthew 7:3-5) and it would most certainly surpass what you think you know about me (1 Corinthians 13:12).
I am not sure how else to break this to you, but here you go (Romans 3:10-12; Isaiah 64:6): not only have I messed up the way you say I have, but it was my sin that put Christ on the cross (Acts 7:52).
It was because of me the Father executed his Son (Isaiah 53:10) on Adam’s tree (1 Peter 2:24). It was because of me that the Savior silently and humbly chose to die (Isaiah 53:7; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
The things you know about me that are wrong and most certainly need to change do not compare to what I have done to my Lord. Though I am grateful for your courage and grace to bring my sin to my attention, I am even more aware of what I have done to the Son of God (1 Timothy 1:15).
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not downplaying what you have brought to my attention, and my response is not a journey into morbid introspection.
It is because of my awareness of my sin against my Lord that I am going to joyfully and aggressively repent of these things that you shared with me.
It is this awareness of my sin against the Lord that brings me hope regarding these things that you have brought to my attention. My Savior will not only forgive me of these new sins, but He will give me the grace I need to overcome them, because I am His forever forgiven, forever adopted, forever justified child (Romans 8:28-30).
So, thank you for reminding me of the gospel once again by bringing up these needed corrections, and I pray you will not hold back when you see me dishonoring my Lord. I have the power (Romans 1:16) to change through Him who saved me (1 John 4:4). I need friends like you to help me see where I need to change (Proverbs 18:24).