Here are three lessons from Jesus on how we can handle criticism. Which ones would you suggest from Jesus or yourself?
Maybe They’re Right
One thing is that if we close our ears to all criticism, we might fail to learn something because the person who is criticizing us might be right and we’ll lose an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and grow. There is such a thing as constructive criticism, and if we never listen to anybody, then when we do need correction, people will feel that it’s useless to try and help us because we’ve cut them off by our own refusal to listen. When Paul was imprisoned for preaching the gospel (Phil 1:12-13), there were some who used that imprisonment as a way to criticize him, but they were trying to discredit him, so it certainly wasn’t constructive criticism, but they were doing it for their own gain (Phil 1:17). Paul still managed to rejoice over the situation (Phil 1:18). Jesus sees nothing wrong with criticizing someone if it is for their own good, like if they are in sin and the criticism leads them to repentance (Luke 17:3).
Maybe They’re Convicted
Jesus told us that we might be criticized and, worse, “be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matt 10:22) and that they “will hate you because of me” (Luke 21:17), so we can’t always take it personally. They may criticize you for being “holier than thou” because you’re not running with them in sin. They might feel convicted of their own sinful lifestyle because of your obedience to God. Just think about the fact that we were once like them: “sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who have sex with men, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers or swindlers” (1 Cor 6:9b-10). At one time some us were as they are now (1 Cor 6:11). If not for the Spirit’s changing us into new creations or creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), we would still be where they are now, so have compassion on them, pray for them, love them, and consider that we were once as they are now.
Maybe They’re Hurting
Have you ever considered that those who criticize you might be hurting? Maybe they see the joy you have and are envious of that. They want that same joy, but without the Spirit of God, they can’t possibly ever have the peace and joy of God. If we think about people who lash out at us and at others, they could well be hurting. I formerly worked with foster care children, and these children were highly critical of others and sometimes of me, but this can be explained in most circumstances. It might have been that their parents didn’t want them, called them names, and told them they would never amount to anything. In some cases their parents abandoned them, went to jail, or were even killed. When others criticize us, Jesus might have us think about what they’ve gone or are going through right now and that they might be hurting.
Jesus was constantly being criticized, but with Him it was always unfair criticism. We might give people real reasons to criticize us, or they might be convicted by their own conscience by their sinful life. It could be that they’re simply hurting inside. Those are three things that I believe Jesus would have us consider the next time we are criticized, and I believe that is what Jesus would have us realize and that might allow us to better handle it.
May God richly bless you,
Pastor Jack Wellman[ssba]
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