I once heard a popular pastor say in a sermon that he was starting to feel like a pinata because so many people were taking whacks at him. When you are a truth teller and are “out of the box” some church people are going to have a hard time with it. There are just some of us who are often slammed by our more conservative friends as being too culturally relevant. Criticism abounds, and it is said that Christians are the only army in the world that shoots their own soldiers.
If you have ever been a person to put your life out on Front Street as a teacher, mentor, counselor or even on a blog like this you may know what I mean. When you lay it out there, you are going to get blasted from time to time. Usually once a week I receive a note from someone who was highly critical of me. And while much of their complaint was manufactured presented in a cowardly manner, I do believe that God has a purpose and plan for everything that comes my way in life. It is all for the goal of conforming me to the image and likeness of Christ. So, I sit up and take notice of these things.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, Romans 8:29 (NASB)
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 1 Peter 5:6 (NASB)
I think God uses many avenues to remind us to be humble, including anonymous, nasty notes.
Personally, I find criticism causes me to check my motives, and to think about being more cautious in what I say and how I say things. I don’t want to poorly represent Jesus Christ. Criticism also leads me to examine my heart in the light of Scripture. Finally, criticism brings me back to my dependence on the finished work of Jesus Christ.
There have been so many Christian leaders who have fallen because they stopped considering criticism. They also failed to ask themselves if there was any truth to the negative things that were said about them. Pride set them up as being beyond reproach in their own minds and they stopped preaching the gospel to themselves. They essentially forgot they need the cross as much as the next guy.
I never want to be a person like that. I want to be an authentic Christian, and I believe I am. As I said in reply to this person who was so brutal in their (anonymous) comments to me; “I am not out to “fool” anyone, I am who and what I am by the grace of God and I make no apologies for it.” I need the cross. I need God’s grace. I need God’s mercy because I remain a sinner. I am in progress and not yet perfected.
Being humbled before God means I must evaluate what was said to me. I have to examine what and how I say things in light of God’s truth and His Word. A person would have to be a fool not to do so especially if they wish to serve the Lord.
And then, the response to silly or even malicious criticism must be gracious.
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NASB)
May we glorify Him by a humble response to criticism!