Criticism is hard and I do not take it well (that’s the honest truth and has held me back from writing this post for a couple of months—some of you might not like it or me). Recently I was talking to a friend who had taken a couple of e-blows on her blog from people who don’t like some personal decisions she has shared. Of course I got defensive and swung first to the “let’s slash their tires” mode.
So I got on Pinterest….I waded through some of my favs like these. (Please note, there are no links to these on this page, that would defeat the entire purpose of this post - read on).
I made these and they are amazing.
This one just cracks me up......
I really do want this spoon, I would use it everyday......
And then saw this reminder of one of my favorite verses about getting along, and got back to the issue at hand, how can we live at peace with another when we disagree so often?
I began to think about two passages and their connection. These have been bouncing around in my head for awhile now. They both apply here. I think that finding the balance between these verses is a key in making a wise response to criticism.
[Verse Number One]
“Don't give to dogs what belongs to God. They will only turn and attack you. Don't throw pearls down in front of pigs. They will trample all over them.” Matthew 7:6 CEV
[Verse Number Two]
“Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.” 1 Peter 3:15 CEV
In my “tire-slashing I’ll take on anyone who dares say a word against those I love” mode Verse One was the one I quoted to my friend. But later as I was still ruminating, Verse Two came to mind too. I believe that there is a holy balance that comes with following Jesus in everyday life, and these verses are just one example. It’s hard to live out both of these verses. No, not hard – impossible.
And that’s the point.
So, what about these verses? Disclaimer regarding the dog-pig thing: the use of this imagery would’ve been understood as Jesus spoke these words in cultural context to refer to those who live apart from God. He’s not necessarily dogging anyone (pun intended). Jesus is not calling names, He is instructing us to distinguish between those who understand and those who don’t; between those who are listening to obey His Truth and those who just aren’t. I love this footnote in my Study Bible regarding Verse One; “Believers are to be merciful, forgiving and slow to judge, yet they should wisely discern the true character of people and not indefinitely continue proclaiming the gospel to those who adamantly reject it, so that they can move on and proclaim the gospel to others.” ESV Study Bible, note on Matthew 7:6. (See also 10:14, Acts 13:46, 18:6).
Now, balance Verse One with the amazing challenge of Verse Two and you’ll end up in the right place. To honor means to treat something as heavy….. [valuable things back then were heavy]: it means to give something weight and value in your life. If Jesus is the Rock that holds down the rest of my life and faith and reactions and emotions and decisions and everything I will be hopeful and I will be ready to tell the Truth when I’m asked about my hope because He steadies me regardless of circumstances. Please see with me, there isn’t room for judging people who disagree with you or are farther behind you in the journey toward spiritual maturity. Keep telling the Truth with mercy, but don’t make the mistake of believing God needs you to defend Him. He invites you to know Him, live in that relationship, and tell the Truth about HIM. If your life or the life of another misrepresents Him it doesn’t change Him. In fact, a life mis-lived for a season then laid down in submission to Him represents God better than any of our manmade versions of Christianity that make us feel so proud. Should we aspire to this? No. (Romans 6:1-3) But we should be as afraid of being over-religious as we are of being pig-dogs. If we are relating to God first and then others the way we should we will encounter opposition. Big deal, that’s not really the issue and not even close to what Jesus endured (Heb.12:3-4). The real decision comes in what to do next.
If you share a part of your story in a public manner, you have to be prepared to take all sorts of reactions…..but, BUT – this is a big ole’ but…..you don’t owe a defense of your honestly told story. When someone reacts negatively to something you share you need to listen, pray, filter, and then choose. Is this a Verse One or a Verse Two opportunity? Both opportunities should be answered with kindness and grace that points toward the Truth-telling merciful nature of Jesus, but one opens up more details and more access to your heart than the other. Sometimes, when we take a critical blow we make the assumption that the person lobbing the grenade deserves an all-access entrance into our story. And that’s just not so. When we feel misunderstood or disliked and just open up our precious stories of God’s faithfulness (pearls) without His guidance we are being idolatrous, because really we are saying that the person’s acceptance is more important than God’s.
Let Him be Lord.
Recognize Him as the Pearl-Maker.
Treasure His faithfulness.
Share your stories.
Listen to criticism.
Filter criticism through the Word.
Ask God to help you perceive who is really listening to HIM.
Tell them the Truth.
Show kindness and a QUIET defensive-less attitude to those who aren’t.
Keep honoring God as you refuse to be drawn into meaningless battles.
Keep the peace…..
But only as far as it depends on YOU.
Leave the rest to Him. He can handle it. Perfectly.