Responding to Criticism


critI came across a very helpful and important reminder as I was reading Carl Trueman today in his book Fools Rush in Where Monkey Fear to Tread. It would be silly if we didn’t admit that we have a pretty high view of self. I’m my own biggest fan, and I’m pretty great at most things I do – just ask me. And if you think I’m being arrogant, I would suggest the only difference between me and you is that I’m being honest. But here’s my caveat: I believe the Bible, and I believe what it says about my heart. I’m not as great as I think I am, and quite honestly I am incalculably worse than I could ever imagine. If the people I read about in the Bible are any indication of my own depraved nature (and indeed, they are), then I need not look far to see that my high view of self is distorted at best. I am, as the saying goes, the wretch that the song is written about…

Given the truth of who I really am compared to what I really think about myself, it’s no small thing when it comes time to respond to criticism. I have, as I suspect is the case with most pastors, faced much criticism, and don’t expect it to go away anytime soon. Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it is intended to cut and bruise, and sometimes I’ve found it to be somewhat amusing – hysterical even! Of course, I want to hear what is worth hearing from those who truly love me and want to see me progress and, more importantly, want to see the integrity of the gospel protected. But there are others who, for one reason or another, decide it a worthy undertaking to invent fanciful tales of what I did or did not say or do. If some of the things I’ve heard about myself are actually true, I must’ve spent several days sleep-walking well enough to convince others that I was in my right mind.

So while helpful criticism is necessary, helpful, and entirely appropriate, how shall we respond to the others? Carl Trueman chimes in:

The answer is simple: for myself, I do not believe that it is appropriate that I spend my time defending my name. My name is nothing – who really cares about it? And I am not called to waste precious hours and energy in fighting off every person with a laptop who wants to have a pop at me. As a Christian, I am not meant to engage in self-justification any more than self-promotion; I am called rather to defend the name of Christ; and, to be honest, I have yet to see a criticism of me, true or untrue, to which I could justifiably respond on the grounds that it was Christ’s honor, and not simply my ego, that was being damaged. I am called to spend my time in being a husband, a father, a minister in my denomination, a member of my church, a good friend to those around me, and a conscientious employee. These things, these people, these locations and contexts, are to shape my priorities and my allocation of time. Hitting back in anger at those who, justly or unjustly, do not like me and for some reason think the world needs to know what they think of me is no part of my God-given vocation. God will look after my reputation if needs be; He has given me other work to do.

Wise words. A much wiser (and older) pastor once told me: “If others insist on slandering your name, just make sure they spell it right.” Amen.

(By: Nick Kennicott)

Church As Family


churchFamilyOne of the most rewarding truths of the Christian life for me has been understanding the Church as family. It delights me to know that while the Bible certainly talks about Christians making up the body of Christ, far more frequently the language is familial – Christians are brothers and sisters, God is our Father, and Jesus is our elder brother. In Ephesians 1:4b-5, the Apostle Paul wrote, “In love [God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Emphasis added). Did you catch it? In love, he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ.

God does not just invite individuals to become Christians. He chooses, calls, and adopts them as his own children. The great privilege of the child of God is to call him, “Abba, Father”, as the Holy Spirit continues to free the Christian’s heart from its orphan-like ways (Galatians 4:4-6). Even more amazing is that Christians are adopted as sons and daughters, not because we are a certain age, nationality, or have a certain physical or intellectual make-up, but solely because of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). As a result, instead of enduring the wrath of God throughout eternity, the Christian will never be loved more or less than the day they were justified. What a wondrous, eternal love this is!

God looked among the orphans of the world and chose those whom he would call his own. He made the legal transaction of justification, and the transfer was made from one family to the next. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:1-3). Paul refers to those who are not children of God as the “sons of disobedience… children of wrath.” This is the state of every soul prior to the justifying grace of God in one’s life. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7). No longer sons of disobedience. No longer children of wrath. Now, children of the King who have obtained an eternal inheritance (Ephesians 1:11).

The understanding that Christians are brothers and sisters comes from an understanding that adoption creates family, bound together in Christ Jesus. No one has a greater standing than others, but all are on equal footing, counted as “holy and blameless before [God]” (Ephesians 1:4). Therefore, the distinctions of brother and sister among Christians mustn’t be taken lightly. To call another Christian “brother” or “sister” is to affirm a mutual standing with them as a child of God. This important distinction is saying, “We have the same Father who loves us, who has rescued us, who has adopted us and calls us His own, and as a result, I can now call you my brother, my sister.” Brother and sister are not just words. They are hugely significant truths that say something about Christians standing with one another.

The Church of Jesus Christ is not a gathering of acquaintances, friends, or even fellow church members. Indeed, to be a Christian in relationship with others is far greater than even a blood relation. The Church is made up of brothers and sisters in Christ who have an unbreakable unity with all of God’s children in the past, present, and future. So the implications should be clear: Christians make up a family of faith that will naturally sacrifice for one another, encourage and help one another, speak well of each other and handle conflicts with a great desire to restore broken and damaged relationships. Christians hold tightly to one another, even in difficult times when the things of tomorrow are uncertain. Christians rejoice and weep together. Christians do not walk out on one another. Christians seek to fulfill Galatians 6:10: “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Christians have a great desire to be at the family gathering (corporate worship) each and every week. And yes, just like our biological families, sometimes our relationships with our siblings are difficult, but we still love and serve them with a greater sense of duty than we have toward others. This is the Christian way.

Brothers and sisters, aren’t you delighted to be in the adopted family of God?

(By: Nick Kennicott)