SIMPLE TRUTH: When criticism falls flat

Published 10:32 am Monday, June 3, 2013

By Charles Christmas

If your ears and mind are tuned in, you are quite aware of criticism from multiple directions toward the church, churches and Christ followers. If we are wise, we will welcome rebuke, profit by it as we examine ourselves, and change, if need be, unless we are sure the criticism is unfounded. The challenge of the believer and the church is to be such as to make the criticism of the outsiders fall flat.

We all remember the multiple devastating tornadoes of death and destruction, that wreaked havoc all over our state at this season only a couple or so years ago. Only one of such areas of devastation was Tuscaloosa. Last Saturday, a television news team was interviewing a former news anchorwoman who was deeply involved in the Tuscaloosa devastation and recovery. The final question was: “If you had to choose one statement that remains with you out of the Tuscaloosa experience, what would it be?” She carefully thought and responded, “Beyond the law enforcement personnel, the firemen, medical emergency personnel, neighbors, family and friends; then the first responders were the faith community. I will never forget the response of “the faith community.” That helps some criticism toward the churches and Christians to fall flat.

The first church in Jerusalem had severe enemies and critics. In the setting of such criticism, the Bible says in Acts 4:14, “But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them there was nothing they could say.” All criticism fell flat. Before their eyes was the evidence of what the risen Christ had done in and through his church in the body and life of one man in desperate need.

I have a friend whose life was radically changed by Jesus Christ 10 years ago. I like to take him with me as my partner in a gospel-sharing visit. Why? Because I ask for permission for him to briefly share his story of how Jesus has given him a new life. Criticism falls flat and enemies are disarmed in the presence of a transformed life. Revelation 12:11 says, “They overcame the enemy (the devil, Satan, the world’s deceiver, the accuser of the believers) by the message of the cross (the blood of the Lamb), their testimony and their unreserved commitment to Christ.”

I was preparing myself for the expected criticism when the superintendent of a large cotton mill said to me, “I want to tell you about Kenneth, a deacon in your church.” I responded, “What about him?” He said, “I want you to know that he is without reservation the best man I have ever known.” That kind of a person makes criticism fall flat.

My head is not in the sand, and I am deeply concerned about my church, the churches and myself. Somehow, large numbers have been added to church rolls who do not have any resemblance to the life, example and teachings of Jesus Christ; or a life-changing relationship to him or that their guide is his word. So what? So we must begin where we are. Those who have missed Christ can began again and be real in him this time. God’s word says, “Examine yourselves to see whether you’re in the faith; test yourself. Do you not realize that Christ is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Three weeks ago, in the Blue Springs Christian Church in Missouri, I heard the pastor’s message in a series titled: “God Is On the Move.” The church was seeking a new defining moment in the life of the church that would enable them to move outside their walls during the weekdays into every ministry opportunity available, and to be God’s light and God’s salt. Having already begun, they will help some critics to have nothing to say.

—Charles Christmas is a religion columnist for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Thursday.