All of us find pleasure in being agreed with. There is no pleasure in being told that you are wrong. Yet there is no blessing that surpasses having critics, standing up against everything you say, or teach. It is the critics that can ensure positive development—and not necessarily those agreeing with you. This is the truth missed by the majority in this world.
There is no dispute in that the great people of this world are great, because they have many people agreeing with whatever they teach. However, this does not necessarily mean that what is taught would be truthful.
Those people would be regarded as great by those approving what they say. It is the followers that instill the impression of greatness in them. Even the worst despots of all time, can be regarded as great, by those who support them.
While Jesus was great—as He accomplished great things within a period of three and a half years. His crucifixion denotes that people did not see greatness in Him. While critics condemned Him—they facilitated the promotion of Him being the Messiah.
For instance, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot was a blessing. Or else it would not have been possible for Jesus to accomplish his mission, without someone selling Jesus out. Judas may not, necessarily, have been Jesus’ critic—but Jesus could not qualify as the Christ without enemies like Judas.
It was only after the crucifixion and resurrection that Jesus claimed that all authority had been conferred on Him. His opponents were the ones who facilitated His blessing of having all authority conferred on Him.
To Jesus, the blessing—coming from those critics—is two-fold. Firstly, the fulfilment of prophecies was portrayed in the behaviour of those critics. Such criticisms facilitated His true followers to appreciate His role—as fulfilling His qualification of being our Messiah.
Secondly, His critics facilitated the clarification of points of misunderstandings for His followers. For instance, the issue of marital chastity was clarified after the Pharisees had posed a question about divorce (Matthew 19:3-12).
However, with or without critics, Jesus did not need anyone to improve his understanding of Scriptures. Jesus represented those Scriptures in person. Unlike with human beings—to Jesus the critics could not add or subtract what Jesus already knew and taught.
To Christians—or Christ followers—the blessing of the critics is three-fold. Firstly, critics enable Christians to verify their data, against the concerns of the critics. A true Christian would befriend him/herself more with those who disagree with him/her—than those in agreement.
Unfortunately, most critics seek to dissociate themselves with the person they disagree with. Such critics seek to do their best in proving how wrong the person they criticize would be.
They would, however, not be willing to verify their own data, if exposed by the person they would be criticizing. Nevertheless, the critics can be a helpful resource to those after truth. It is therefore imperative to always listen to critics, as there is much to learn from them.
The most important thing is to be sincere, when engaging them. Approach them with an open mind, as you could just as well be wrong on some point. Of course, this does not necessarily mean all criticisms would be based on truth.
But as long as the person being criticized focuses on objectivity, chances of benefiting from critics can be high. Although Paul did not clarify what he meant by a messenger of Satan who tormented him, Paul could as well have meant someone who may have been his critic:
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) (ESV).
This reveals that if humiliated for perceived weaknesses—that would be a blessing to be accepted with gladness. Those critics might be true in what they say. But, even though stating unfounded allegations, Paul says that is what serves to make you strong. The critics may serve to purge all error found in you.
The second blessing is in fulfilment of prophesies—just as was the case with Jesus Christ. As soon as one becomes a Christian, it is important to appreciate that one’s actions would fulfil what is recorded in Scriptures, one way or the other.
Such Scriptures are either in the Old or New Testament. But they fulfill whatever God designated as appropriate for that person. As soon as one becomes a Christian, one ceases to be of his/her own. Christ would have taken over:
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:23-27) (ESV).
While Jesus is looked at, as if different from us, He was one of us and He carried His cross without murmur. Christians are expected to do likewise. The most important datum to appreciate is that being part of God’s Kingdom, does not come from the approval of humanity.
This is just as the mission of Jesus did not come from the approval of humanity. While having people on your side and appreciating what you do is satisfying, this should not be taken as God’s approval.
The approval from fellow human beings cannot always be a sign of God’s approval. But also, this does not mean that human approval should always be regarded as a curse. Jesus also said:
“But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27) (ESV). Jesus said this on account of death being what is feared by most people. While others would suffer persecutions and death, others would not taste those things.
Christians are not necessarily treated uniformly. Each would have his or her own cross to carry. What is important is to look to Jesus and trust Him—as one taking care of the individual. This is why to Peter, Jesus declared:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remains until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:18-22) (ESV).
While the task of doing the work of God is bestowed on each and every Christian—each is allocated with a mission whose measure is determined by Christ. The talents given to three men, in Matthew 25:14-30, were not equitable.
There was no need for each of those talent holders to compare with their counterparts—except to work according to the talents received. When Christ calls people to become His followers, He knows the capacity of their strengths and weaknesses.
Their production would be measured according to how they allow Christ to work in their lives. It would not be them working and producing. But their production would be based on how they allow Christ to work in their lives (Ephesians 2:8-10). See [Works bring the opposite of what is intended].
The third and final blessing—as coming from critics—for those serving according to allocated talents, as benefiting other people—are perfected by their critics. The critics serve to sharpen their ability to project the truth, so that many people can be brought to the Lord through them.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4) (ESV).
When what you get is not what you wanted, then what you get is experience. Without critics, it is not possible to ever grow in any ministry that one would be involved in. Receiving approval all the way, has negative effects, as the person concerned lives under the impression that all would be well—when the opposite could be true.
As human beings, we obviously need people who support and approve of what we do. Having such people around, can be a blessing, but such blessings are not necessarily advantageous to our cause. Such blessings serve more to please the person of the flesh, than the person of the Spirit.
This is one of the reasons why Peter was sternly rebuked by Jesus, when indicating to stand by Jesus’ side, during Jesus’ trial (Matthew 16:21-23). The derision of Peter by Jesus, can confuse many people—as Peter had indicated being Jesus’ supporter. Why did Jesus castigate a person on His side?
I suppose Peter had expected approval from Jesus—especially having been commended for identifying Jesus as the Christ? (Verse 18). Jesus showed Peter—and all of us today—that being supported by friends is not necessarily a blessing.
As brethren, Christians are expected to stand by each other’s side in prayer and other physical necessities. When Jesus left them with an instruction to wash one another’s feet, He meant to encourage them to remain with the spirit of service. (John 13:12-17).
Such spirit of service would be unconditional. This is just as Jesus washed the feet of Judas Iscariot—knowing fully, how Judas would betray Him. True Christians exercise love to all human beings, including enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).
While in this world, those who agree with us can be treated with dignity. Our calling requires us to appreciate that our enemies are, instead, the ones who ought to be highly regarded. There is more spiritual value derived from our enemies, than in people who support us, as to be our close friends.
Most Christians have a tendency to treat their critics as enemies. But critics ought to be treated as best friends, ahead of supporters. We are perfected by our enemies, not necessarily by our supporters.
However, this does not mean those supporting ought to be treated disdainfully. This is like a child who prefers to be at home, than going to school, during winter. Staying at home gives comfort, but it doesn’t add value. However, that does not mean developing hatred towards the home environment.
Instead of always enjoying receiving good comments from those who support us, we would be doing ourselves favour, when objectively regarding criticisms from our enemies. Those critics ought to be regarded highly. They would be the only ones making a difference in our Spiritual growth.
Christianity is more about absorbing discomfort as if it were comfort. This is why James advises counting it all joy when trials of diverse nature come (James 1:3). James echoes what Jesus said when teaching the beatitudes (Matthew 5:10-12).
It is important to always be prepared to experience anything, though causing only those things that others are able to experience. This happens to be the only way that develops a person towards the blessing of being great.
However, critics can take another extreme. Instead of discussing issues of critical nature with you, they may decide to pretend being with you and say nothing. Instead, they choose to gossip and advise other people to avoid you—because you teach what they consider to be heresy.
Even if you open up to those critics, they close up completely. They prefer to see you stumbling in darkness, than helping you to understand what you could be missing. Certainly, there is nothing you could do about such people, except to give them the benefit of the doubt. God takes control of the rest.
A good Christian entertains critical voices more than he/she entertains supportive voices. If they make it into God’s Kingdom, it would be due to how those Christians handle dissenting voices more than they handle supportive voices.
This is not difficult, as long as they know that the work of Christianity is of Christ. A Christian is only an instrument used by God to achieve best results. This is why part of our prayer insists that God’s will be done on earth as in Heaven (Matthew 6:10).
The reward promised to Christians is basically determined by how one treats his/her critics (Matthew 5:43-45). Jesus loved those critics, to the point of even healing the ear of one of those—having been injured during the pandemonium. His ear had been cut off by Peter. See [Genuine conflict is between good and evil]
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99
Also available as an e-copy at Lulu.com for $6.99