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Encountering Criticism

Encountering Criticism

 

Let’s face it, everyone is a critic. Everyone has something to say and everyone has an opinion. And if you, personally, don’t have an opinion on something, then you can be rest assured that someone will give you their opinion for not having an opinion.

Because everyone is a critic.

Criticism will come. Whether you’re in ministry, the public sector, the private sector, the food, fishery or farming industry, whether you’re in produce or manufacturing or education or financial, criticism will come. You will be criticized, and you will criticize others.

You will criticize your spouse, kids, friends, family, work colleagues, your pastor, elders, ministry leaders, and brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes you’ll do this knowingly and, other times, unknowingly.

But here’s the reality: criticism is part of this divine battle that’s been waging from the beginning of human history[1]. And, yet, this doesn’t negate the fact that criticism doesn’t exist. In fact, it might shock you, that the first victim of criticism was God Himself.

 When Satan played his game of deception, he not only openly criticized the very words of God, but he actively called them into question. “Surely God didn’t say, ‘You will not die’[2]”?

 

The created criticized the Creator. 

God didn’t deserve it, there was no basis for it and there was no truth found in it. But, unlike God, who is thrice called holy[3], we can’t make the same claim. We are all tainted by the stain of sin. And because of this, in even the most destructive and condemning forms of criticism, there will always be a sliver of truth.

Always.

That’s a hard truth to swallow. I’ve been challenged lately on this idea and, if I’m going to be honest, I’m more and more finding it to be true.

The reason why we take criticism so hard is because of the self-righteousness and pride that exists in our hearts. We take it personally, which we shouldn’t. It’s much, much easier for us to stew in our emotions than it is to lay in our beds, as David reminds us in Psalm 4, and search our hearts and be silent before the Lord.

 

An Appropriate Response

But how should we respond to criticism? Well, how did Jesus respond to it? “Christ’s response to criticism,” as Beeke and Thompson reminds us, “ought to shape our minds, affections and wills as we undergo verbal flak… .[4]

As disciples of Christ, we are to be discipled by Christ. That means we look to him as our example, always. We don’t have an option or an opinion on this. Jesus gives us our opinion: Follow me.

This is in no way my attempt to underscore the significance of our Saviour’s suffering at Calvary, but much of the suffering he experienced was through criticism. His teaching and ministry were criticized by the Sanhedrin, Pontus Pilate called into question his kingly claims, He was accused of conspiring against Rome and inciting a rebellion against her, He was slandered, mocked, ridicule and insulted. The list goes on.

And how did He respond?

 

He remained silent and clothed Himself with meekness.

 

Yet even as he hung on the cross, He was ridiculed, mocked and insulted. “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and save us![5]

But His silence was not a sign of weakness, no, it was a sign of his obedience to the will of God. His silence was a sign of victory over sin. His silence was the mark of a mighty warrior-king bending to the will of God. His silence wasn’t the mark of a lamb being led to the slaughter but the resounding roar of a triumphant lion.

Christ did not suffer as a victim, but the victor.

And His silence should be a reminder to us about how we are to face criticism.

When we face criticism, we need to be reminded that God was the first recipient of criticism. When we face accusation or insult or slander, we can do so knowing that Christ is our victor and that our identity is found in Him and Him alone. Our God is the great I AM who faced far greater trial and tribulation than we - His sons and daughters - will ever face.

Yes, criticism will hurt. It will make our world shrink a few sizes smaller, but that’s not where the story ends. Run to Christ. Give it over to Him and, as David reminds us again in Psalm 4, “lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”

 

Amen.

 

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[1] I’m in no way implying that, somehow, Satan has the upper hand to God or that God is in a losing battle against Satan

[2] Genesis 3:4

[3] Isaiah 6:3

[4] Beeke, Joel and Thompson, Nick. 2020. Pastors and their Critics. New Jersey: P&R Publishing

[5] Luke 23:39

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