The Critics and how to be a good one
Throughout this year I have become increasingly disturbed by comments and statements posted on social media and the press about what appears to be God using someone, a denomination/network, a conference and the denunciation of those people as being nothing more than deceivers. When it comes from those outside the Church then it is in some way to be expected but when it comes from within the Church, that is what disturbs me the most.
Church leaders and experts of this-and-that can be the ones who are the most vociferous.
The world looks on as the kingdom of the Church divides and falls.
What is it that brings the most outrage? It is based on how much attention the crowds give. Is this person popular? Do they have a following? More to the point are they doing things that we have longed to do? When they are packing stadiums and we are packing a pew then we are tempted to use the purity argument, what is pure is small, what is large is to be feared.
Here are some thoughts from a long passage of Luke 11: 14 -32
“Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, “By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.”
- The man was free. He had been mute. Matthew and Mark write of him being healed of blindness also. So, the mute blind man is healed. Set free. The crowd were amazed, stunned, marvelling at this miracle! There would have been no opposition if this miracle had not happened. The good attracts the criticism. If people are being healed, saved, added to the church. If the Church is growing and impacting the community then critics are not far behind. It is difficult to criticise nothing.
“Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them…”
- It is easy to dismiss critics as enemies. Some have said they never allow any negative comment or person near their life. Some have said that the Jezebel spirit should not touch the anointed. Those who handle criticism are sometimes as guilty as those who criticise. We must find a way to get into the mind of those who oppose. We must know their thoughts. A parent who refuses to understand why their teenage child is unruly will become even more distant to them. Getting under the skin and knowing the history is important. The importance of the Pharisees to hold onto the purity of the law at a time of the nation being oppressed by Rome and Gentile behaviour and beliefs was so important. But they had other pressures. Frome the Essenes who were a separatist group, they had the Dead Sea Scrolls and considered themselves as holders of the truth. Then the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead and then all kinds of revolutionaries. However, it was the plain Jew that the Pharisees felt the pressure from. The Jew who went about their own business, trying to follow the jewish laws, cultural practices, observing the holy days and above all following their own family oral tradition. The Pharisees felt the pressure to get these Jews to follow them. But by and large they were not successful. Jesus knew them and he knew how they thought. The Pharisees were genuine people who had sincere motives, but they were wrong.
“Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder… “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”
- With two short parables Jesus responded calmly, logically, unpacking their criticism, disempowering their argument. The point is of course that the only way this man has been healed and set free is the source of Jesus’ power which is God. Secondly, the only way this man was set free was because Jesus came and restricted Satan’s powers over the individual. But Jesus says one more thing. Being free doesn’t automatically mean you will stay free. Without the house being given over to the kingdom of God, it may have been cleaned but it is not filled and given to the rule of God. Therefore it is more open to being in a worst state than before meeting Jesus.
But there is more which helps us in this third point I am making.
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you. He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.
- The Kingdom and the rule of God are crucial and therefore obedience to God’s word is too. Is the person in obedience to God? This can be difficult. The Pharisees would say NO. They would say he blasphemes because he says he forgives sins, he associates with sinners and now he casts out demons and no priest, prophet or king has done such a thing. It is not conducive to the Scriptures. He is leading people astray and so must be stopped. Their interpretation of Scripture says He is a deceiver.
- Here are the signs from heaven: Jonah and Nineveh. He will do something far greater than Jonah in the laying down of his life. Is the person surrendering to God? Is submission near? Are they giving and helping, loving and living for others?
- The Queen of the South, the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings10) who also had a repentant heart as Solomon spoke to her. But Jesus claim is he is greater than Solomon and so will build the end times Temple and restore David’s Kingdom and therefore is the Messiah.
The point is this: how do we know if someone is genuine?
- Is the rule of God seen in their life?
- Are they obedient to God?
- Are they going the way of the cross in submission?
- Do they elevate Jesus in who he is? Do they glorify God by lifting up Jesus above all others?