Have you ever heard the phrase, "Christians are the only ones who shoot their wounded"? If we were sitting down over a cup of coffee, I would love to know you're thoughts about that comment.
I had a great conversation with a friend the other day about how to respond to comments said about other believers. My friend was in a spiritual conversation with a girl who was describing her experience with Christians. The girl said a pastor had told her she was "the spawn of satan". Everything in us wants to jump to the girls defense and bash that pastor who would say that.
It's also common to hear Christians and non-Christians alike talk bad about the general "other Christians", lumping every Christian into a category of judgmental, legalistic, cheesy, dorky... etc. It's easy to passively nod in agreement about those "other" Christians being so ______.
Didn't Jesus say people would know He was God by our love for one another? He didn't say the non-believer would know Jesus was God by our taking their side and joining them in pointing the finger at the Christians they came in contact with.
Rather, people will know Jesus is God by our love, our unselfishly choosing for another's highest good, of other believers, even believers we don't know, even believers we don't agree with or necessarily relate with all that much. How beautiful it would be to see bashing and belittling Jesus' bride come to an end.
Here are 4 practical ways to deal with criticism from believers.
1. Pray for them. There was a time I was unjustly criticized and I got angry. I was so angry I just stormed off and neglected my responsibilities and went to vent to God about the person. I started praying for them things like, “God, you show them what you think!” “Show them how wrong they are… convict them!” But gently the Lord spoke to me to really pray for them, to pray the hardest things for me to pray and pray for their best interest. I didn’t want to pray for their good, I wanted God to get em! But eventually I did, not because I felt like it, but out of obedience. As I kept praying for this person and for God to give them an incredible ministry someday and other super hard things for me to pray, a crazy thing happened. My heart softened. The anger subsided and I was able to forgive them, even when the person didn’t ask for it. The next week this person said they were sorry making me the first person they had ever said sorry to in their entire life.
2. Sort out good and bad. Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a great book called Changes that Heal that describes this really well. Basically it says we have a tendency to think in terms of all good or all bad. If we like something or someone we lean toward thinking it (or they) are all good and can do no wrong. Or if we don’t like something we tend to think nothing good could come from it. When we receive criticism we need to process with the Lord what’s good and true about what is being said and be able to separate that from what is not true.
3. Clarify and Communicate. When we (or others) are criticized we need to communicate in a healthy way about the issue. We need to share what we heard (or think we heard), what we felt and thought about it, our desires and then also share what we’d like to see happen in the future. Here’s a great tool to help with this process.
It is also very helpful to ask questions and reword what you think someone is saying to help clarify what you think someone is saying because the majority of conflicts are a result of miscommunication.
4. Remember what’s true about you and “them”. We fail, and if you're anything like me, it's easy to demand mercy for my mistakes yet justice and wrath for others, forgetting that Jesus died for their mistakes too.
When another believer messes up, our knee jerk reaction is to point the finger and accuse. But here's the reality (ital. mine), "Once you [and they] were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your [and their] evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you [them] by Christ's physical body through death to present you [them] holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation." Col. 1:21-22
The more we understand our true identity in Christ, we should understand that same identity as given to other believers in Christ as well.
Laura, the creator and host of Missional Women is married and has four kids, two of whom are adopted. Laura and her husband have been missionaries to college students for 11 years serving with Master Plan Ministries. Laura is the Staff Women's Development Coordinator and has discipled over 150 girls, led over 30 Bible studies and speaks 10-20 times a year. Laura is an award winning author of a 12 week Bible Study on First Samuel, Beholding Him, Becoming Missional, recently released Reach; How to Use Your Social Media Influence for the Glory of God, and A Devotional Journey through Judges, a devotional to accompany the free online Bible study at TheBookofJudges.com. You can find her on facebook,twitter, pinterest, youtube, instagram and her author site.
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10/12/2013 07:34:34 am
Grand words of wisdom and advice! And to the first suggestion, even if they NEVER say they are sorry, you have chosen the right way, God's way, and He will bless you for it - in spiritual growth, in peace, in His love! It's so worthwhile! Thanks for an excellent reminder!
10/12/2013 08:30:04 am
I need to remember number 4. Thanks!
10/13/2013 01:38:53 am
This really spoke to me today. I am reading another book by Dr. Henry Cloud right now - and he actually used that same example in the book I'm reading. This is an excellent article!
10/18/2013 07:16:03 am
These are great thoughts! It's sad that we do tend to bash each other and make generalizations about wrong things "other Christians" do. But we're all under the grace of Jesus, and we need to constantly remember that. Thank you!
2/20/2014 01:00:16 am
So very true. Great advice. We also need to remember NOT to repeat stories to others. To not change the quotes of what was actually said. I love the point about all bad and all good. That is a golden nugget of truth. Forgiving is hard. That's why we're told to do it so many times. I know my own reactions tend to differ depending on how much time I'm spending in God's word.
2/20/2014 12:42:49 pm
Great article Laura! I know that I have struggled with this plenty. Thank you for your words of wisdom!
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