Lewis Campbell’s sermon at Stonehaven Baptist Church this week focussed on the subject of criticism, or more accurately our response to criticism. This is a topic everybody faces in life to lesser and larger degrees and our reaction can depend on the justification or otherwise of that criticism. Nobody wants to take pelters for something they’ve not done, but equally we can choose to react graciously if the criticism is in fact warranted.
When weary teammates criticised me on the football pitch by, exasperated by my latest missed tackle or fluffed shot, I’d put my hands up and confess culpability, red faced and chastened. If though my work colleagues called me out for an error I’d in truth not made it’d be a different matter, my response rather more robust and spirited. It’s one thing to be ticked off for a glaring aberration, a senseless faux pas, but quite another to be falsely accused. The toughest criticism to take is the one borne of unfounded accusation, those moments when you find yourself on the hook for something you didn’t do.
Paul spoke of this in his second letter to the church of Corinth. He’d been accused of wronging people, leading them astray and acting hypocritically. They felt he’d been insincere, and while he confessed to being far from perfect, he was not prepared to have his motives and integrity called into question. He boasted not in himself but only in the one he followed, Jesus, attributing all good to him and in no way seeking credit for himself. Those who accused Paul of grandstanding, of setting himself above others, were reminded that he acted purely as a witness for Christ seeking simply to allow the Holy Spirit to flow through him in word and deed.
As Christians we too seek to live in a manner that doesn’t big ourselves up but honours the one we believe in; Jesus Christ. We get it wrong a lot of the time, we’re bound to given we’re utterly fallible as mere human beings, but when we truly invite God to abide within us we’re brought back to right living and it’s to him we give the glory. And when we do go wrong, and we will, we remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness, committing ourselves once again to serving him by opening our hearts to his will. God does not give up on us even if we give up on ourselves, he has plenty of good in store for us provided we keep short accounts with him, returning to him and being guided by him. God isn’t a deceiver, he’s not in the business of abandoning those who commit themselves to him, instead he leads us on as we look to imitate and honour him. This is what ‘giving your life to God’ truly means. It’s not a random one time gesture or blithe shot in the dark, it’s a genuine offering of your heart to your creator and a commitment to a relationship with him.
Criticism will come, it’s inevitable whether warranted or otherwise, but if we stick to our guns, stay true to our faith, keep walking the narrow path boldly, God’s loving grace will conquer all. In the end, we have an audience of one, the one true creator God. Provided we’re right with him, all is right with our world.