Surviving Criticism by Walking with Jesus.
Devotional Thought of the Day
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.
Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 1602-1606). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Morality and Adoration
Devotional thought of the day:
As I wander through the updates of Facebook, I see two basic reactions to immorality.
The first encourages and defends it, asserting that no one has the right to interfere with another’s choices. It doesn’t matter what is immoral, whether it be greed, or lust, or envy. Dare you challenge someone on an immoral act, and you will find great opposition, even to the extent that you will be demonized for opposing that which they have every right (incurring free speech) to do. Result, immorality proposers.
The second is an attempt, rather than dealing with immorality on an individual basis, to legislate it, to prohibit and publicly protest it. We see this all the time, as Christians attempt to sincerely make a difference, or at least try to appear like they are making a difference. In trying to legislate the morality of a culture that is patently immoral, we easily become crusaders or compromisors, willing to give up on this issue, to make a stand on that issue, Eventually, we simply make token stands, like the one church leaders made last year – protesting the requirement for mandated coverage for abortion for those whose work is affiliated with religious ministry. ( Don’t we trust our own people enough that they won’t take advantage of such, but they will come to us for assistance in crisis? For that matter, do we doubt the moral fiber of those we shepherd to not get “into trouble” in the first place?)
So what do we do about morality and immorality? What will radically change the behavior of our country? What will help people not only be able to distinguish what it moral and beneficial to themselves and society, but see a desire to live morally, and to seek remedy and assistance when one fails, (as we all do)
There is an easy answer.
Simply put, when we find ourselves in the midst of a Holy, Righteous, Perfect God, who welcomes us, cleanses us, loves us, we find ourselves in awe, and that awe transforms to joy and that joy into adoration and love. And the more we fall in love with the God who loves us, and blesses us, and makes our life a masterpiece, that awe grows. And as that awe grows, the more the moral fabric of our lives changes.
Look at the stories of the “big-time” saints. St. Paul, St Augustine, St Francis, or the great revivals like the Great Awakening, or the Welsh Revival. In each life, in each revivial, the moral fabric changes, even without being addressed. Like Zacchaeus, an encounter with God leaves us wanting to change, and more than that – seeing the changes created inside us, impelling us, transforming us, renewing and re-creating us in all of His glory.
Some theologians will disagree with me, they will point to the natural law, and the “civil use” of the law. I’ll deal with that some other time – the answer is simple – found in Romans 2-8. But you cannot deny, someone madly in love with God, who is responding to God’s love for them being revealed – they will be transformed, and the more they dwell, the more they live in the presence of His love, the more they will be unable to tolerate sin, and immorality. Within themselves, they will rush to forgiveness, to the places it is promised. They will meditate on their Baptism (see Titus 3:2-8), they will feast on the Body brokem and the Blood shed for the forgiveness of sins, they will confess their sins and hear that they are cleansed of them and all unrighteousness. ANd they will see their brother, their neighbor, those those still fighting for freedom to sin, and they will fight to free them from sin, not simply restrict the ability to.
Adoration result in morality, not as a primary result, but simply as a side affect.
But if it is a moral society you really desire… desire instead the presence of the One who accounts us moral, and righteous, and beloved.
To avoid routine in your vocal prayers try to say them with the same ardour with which a person who has just fallen in love speaks… and as if it were the last chance you had to approach Our Lord. (1)
As I have been considering the approach of Advent, the theme of adoration keeps running through my mind. And in the free-association sleeplessness that comes from a mixture of jetlag, going back to back long days and trying to live for a week in a country with a primary different language, I started thinking in french for some reason last night, picturing the shepherds kneeling by Mary and Joseph, peering into the feeding trough and looking at… God incarnate! ( I know- picturing the manger scene with French speaking shepherds may be a little wierd… but)
The are looking, in awe, at the Messiah, the Son of God, God incarnate…. their Creator!
As the finally were able to speak, the only words that were uttered, softly and meekly, nous t’adorons.
We adore YOU!
Not said in the English idea, that the baby was just adorable… (I doubt they pinched the Messiah’s cheek – but you never know) But with the passion that is described in the quote taken from my morning devotions. With the ardour, with the passion, with the desire to never leave His side, to spend every moment thinking about our Lord and Deliverer. It is by no means romantic, yet a similar kind of enthusiasm, a similar kind of joy exists. The joy of discovering a love whose height and depth, breadth and width cries out to be discovered, A love which needs to be explored – a love of the Creator, the One who has promised to fix and heal and make our lives the way they are meant to be – not just for this time, but for eternity.
We don’t just “follow Him”, we don’t just study His teachings, we don’t just honor what He has done at the cross and the empty tomb and all the miracles.
We Adore Him. Nous T’adorons Jesus!
For He has come into our lives… and they will never be the same….
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1665-1667). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.