What help does the Bible give us on a Christian response to criticism?
I find Philippians so helpful on this. It is written in a situation of criticism. Paul knows that the temptation will be to let the criticism dominate the church, and that will stop people living for Christ. The first thing he says to them, as a group together, is to examine themselves to make sure their conduct is worthy of the gospel. He spells out what means:
- making every effort to be likeminded
- being one in spirit and purpose
- having the same love
- not being selfish and conceited
- being humble
- most of all, modelling your attitude on Christ.
However there are times when criticism does need to be confronted. Prayerfully, carefully and doing our best to take planks out of our own eyes, but confronted nonetheless. Perhaps to avoid a culture of murmuring building up, perhaps to correct serious error, certainly to avoid the gospel being smeared.
For example, the Corinthians were accusing Paul of double standards. They were saying "he said he would come to visit but he never did. He is unreliable." Its interesting that when Paul was smeared in Philippi he didn’t really respond, but when this was said in Corinth, he did. The difference is that in Corinth people were also saying that because Paul was unreliable, therefore his gospel was unreliable. That’s what he responded to, not the personal criticism of himself.
We always have to take criticism to the Lord. There are lots of good examples of how to do that in the Psalms. David talks about God being the refuge from the rage of his enemies. When he feels so attacked that he can only sigh, then he is confident that God hears.
Psalm 9 is particularly poignant “See how my enemies persecute me. Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death that I may declare your praises and rejoice in your salvation.”
David takes refuge in worship. The danger of criticism is that you will let it dry up the wells of worship from which you drink.
Peter says take unjust punishment being conscious of God for that receives God’s commendation. In other words, take refuge in worshipping him.