Surviving Criticism by Walking with Jesus.

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59  So they stoned Stephen while he called upon God, and said, “Jesus, Lord, receive my spirit!” 60  Then, on his knees, he cried in ringing tones, “Lord, forgive them for this sin.” And with these words he fell into the sleep of death ….. Acts 7:59-60 (Phillips NT)

16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t become snobbish but take a real interest in ordinary people. Don’t become set in your own opinions. 17  Don’t pay back a bad turn by a bad turn, to anyone. Don’t say “it doesn’t matter what people think”, but see that your public behaviour is above criticism. 18  As far as your responsibility goes, live at peace with everyone. 19  Never take vengeance into your own hands, my dear friends: stand back and let God punish if he will. For it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’. 20  … these are God’s words: ‘Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head’. Don’t allow yourself to be overpowered with evil. Take the offensive – overpower evil by good! Romans 12:16-20 (Phillips NT)

688    Once again, they’ve been talking, they’ve written— in favor, against; with good, and with not so good will; insinuations and slanders, panegyrics and plaudits; hits and misses … Fool, big fool! As long as you keep going straight toward your target—head and heart intoxicated with God—why care about the clamor of the wind or the chirping of the cricket, or the bellowing, or the grunting, or the neighing? Besides, it’s inevitable; don’t try to install doors in open air.

It is the odd day that someone isn’t criticized for their beliefs,  It seems a past time to criticize others, and most of us have been hurt deeply by that criticism.  And perhaps as often, we have struck back hurting others as we’ve been criticized.  Either hitting our target, the one who attacked us or striking some innocent person who walked into range at just the wrong time.

This is true in the secular world, and it is as true in the world of religion.

It is hard to allow people to strike us, without striking out in self-defense. It is hard to take the abuse and not be hurt.

Such oppression dealt with in a manner like Jesus’ dealing with his accusers, or dealt with as  St. Stephen did, can lead to reconciliation and community in ways we could never have imagined.

Yes, it takes great faith, an incredible level of trust in God.  That is the key.

Having thick skin isn’t the key.

Pretending the words don’t hurt isn’t the key. Neither is not taking it personally! When our beliefs and opinions are, well ours, we can’t just shake it off. To pretend we can is living a lie.

In order to survive our beliefs being criticized, in order to hear the words, apply what is true and beneficial, and not strike out, we need to do what St Stephen does, cry out to Jesus.  We need to keep focused on our target, Jesus. To not deviate from our adoration of Him, our awe at the depth of His love for us,  I love the way St. Josemaria puts it, our head and heart intoxicated with God!  To make life centered on receiving that love, and returning it.  Living life in full view of it, and becoming the saints He has planned for us to be.

It is then that true constructive criticism (or that two lines out of a thousand) become something we are grateful for, as they help us draw closer to Jesus. And that which isn’t constructive, we ask that God forgive, that He handle, because He has the wisdom we don’t.

That kind of love, that kind of trust in God helps us to not just dismiss the evil we encounter, but sees GOd’s love overwhelm it.  Just as Paul, who wrote then incredible words in Romans quoted above, and witnessed Stephen pleading with God to be merciful with Paul.

May our cries for the Lord to have mercy, not only include us, but all, including our enemies and adversaries.

AMEN!

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1602-1606). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on July 8, 2015, in Devotions, Poiema, The Way and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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