2 Corinthians 11:4 (NIV)
4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
Here in 2 Corinthians 11:1-15 we see Paul using some strong language to respond to several different attacks and criticisms people were making of him, such as:
- "you're not a trained speaker, Paul" (v6)
- "you talk a lot of foolishness, Paul" (v1)
- "you can't be a legit minister because you serve us for free as a volunteer, Paul" (v7-8)
- "your gospel is not as cool sounding as the gospel that the "super apostles" talk about, Paul" (v4)
In 2 Corinthians 11:1-15 Paul passionately and emphatically addresses each of these criticisms:
- to those who attack him for not having gone through formal training as a speaker, Paul says, "What's more important is that I have good things to share with you, I know what I am talking about and I communicate it clearly" (v6)
- to those who question his legitimacy as a minister because he offered his ministry free of charge to the Corinthians, Paul says, "How is offering my services to you free of charge a strike against me? I received support from other churches but intentionally didn't receive support from you so as not to be a burden to you! How is that a sin? Isn't that rather a practical demonstration of my love for you?" (v8-9)
- to those who say that Paul's gospel was not as compelling as the message preached by others, Paul warns his church against allowing false teaching and heresy to poison their faith (v3-4). He says that he is not in any way inferior to the "super apostles" they were comparing him to (v5). In fact, he calls those super apostles who were putting him down "false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ" (v13).
What can we learn from all this? If Jesus and Paul got criticized even when they were doing good, don't be surprised if you are criticized while trying to do good. How well do you deal with criticism?
Getting criticized is inevitable, especially when you lead people. The criticism you receive may be fair or unfair. It may be wise or foolish. It may come from people who know you well or people who don't know you at all. It may come from people with pure motives or people with a hidden agenda. It may come from healthy, mature, loving people, or from unhealthy, immature, unloving people.
Whatever the case may be, whenever you receive criticism, ask yourself: Is there any truth or merit to what that person is saying? What can I learn from this criticism to make myself a better servant of God?
If there something you can learn from the criticism, use it to make you a stronger, wiser, more effective servant of God. If there's nothing to learn from the criticism and it is just an unhealthy person speaking careless words and thinking immature thoughts, let it go and give it to God. However, if the criticism is unfounded, destructive and ongoing, like Paul there may come a time when you need to take a stand, defend yourself, and not allow such criticisms to discredit your ministry or to negatively affect those you lead.
While we can't control what people will say to us, we can control how we respond to what they say. May God give you great wisdom and courage to deal with criticism in healthy, Christ-honouring ways. May you not shrink in the face of criticism, but allow criticism -- even the most unfounded, unreasonable, or unhealthy kind -- to make you stronger.