The other day, I opened my computer only to see a message addressed to me that said, “So just what do you think this passage means?Do you think it means nothing?”
If you think you picked up in the middle of a conversation, you’re mistaken.This is how this brother apparently thought would be a good way to begin a discussion.No, “Hello.” No, “Hope this finds you doing well.” No, “Hey brother, I read something you wrote and would like to ask you to clarify a couple of things.” All I got was an aggressive, accusatory, question.
Sadly, such correspondence is not a stranger to preachers.The amount of writing and speaking a preacher does makes him a target for people in the world and an equal number of Christians who still have the world in them.Therefore, it’s something we must learn to manage.And to be sure, preachers are not the only people who must deal with aggressive critics, so don’t “circle your emotional wagon” and feel singled out.
The following suggestions have unfortunately been learned through trial and error on my part.However, while I am far from perfect in my own implementation of these principles, I have tried to practice them consistently enough to know that they are useful.
- Do not respond immediately.Sleep on an inflammatory text, email, or phone call before responding.Chances are that neither you nor your accuser will be in the right frame of mind to answer in a Christlike spirit or receive the answer in a Christlike spirit if responded to immediately.Cool off, first.Countless times, I have wanted to fire off a salvo of equally offensive responses to offensive accusations, but I have refrained and later have been glad I did.Frequently, I will go ahead and write my response, but not send it.Then, the next day when I read what I initially wrote, I am thankful that I did not reply immediately (Proverbs 26:4).This delay allows you to master your emotions and allows the Spirit, not the flesh, to rule your life.
- Try to see through the abrasiveness.Don’t let a valid criticism be dismissed because of the way it was delivered.而他们的指控可能会提出一种耻辱ful manner, their accusation may be true.In Acts 6:1, a complaint (literally, murmuring – which Paul said Christians should not do – Philippians 2:14) was brought to the apostles.This is not the way to deal with a problem, but note how the apostles handled it.They did not dismiss the substance of their complaint and correct them for the way they brought the complaint to their attention.No, in that moment, they overlooked their error in the way they handled their complaint and addressed the legitimate concern in their complaint.
- Humble Yourself.Stop feeling the need to defend yourself and just keep doing right.The enemies of Nehemiah once threatened to tell lies about him if he did not stop his good work.In response, Nehemiah simply ignored their complaint and continued to do good, asking for God to strengthen his hands (Nehemiah 6:9).I wish I knew how and when God’s providence is at work, but no sooner than I received this aggressive message last week, and nearly a dozen similar follow-up messages that I refused to acknowledge, the very next day, I received notes of encouragement “out of the blue.” Three respected gospel preachers thanked me for writing the article about which this other brother wanted to wrangle.As difficult as it may be, restrain yourself, deny yourself the satisfaction of “giving them a piece of your mind,” and allow God to strengthen your hands.
- Pray for your accuser.Last year, a few brethren thought it would be a good idea to put my picture, along with two others, on a large banner attached to the side of a moving truck, and park it next to a busy highway.The banner accused us of teaching error.Shortly after they did this, my phone began “blowing up,” and scores of people were coming to me saying, “Did you know…,” “Have you seen…?” I deliberately decided to put into practice what I learned many years ago from Batsell Barrett Baxter.On one occasion, a brother had gone to press with several unkind accusations against brother Baxter.Unaware of what had been written about him, Baxter was informed while having lunch with three preacher friends.Instead of railing against what this man had written, Baxter led his three preacher friends in a prayer for the man who wrote the article.Because of brother Baxter’s lead, I decided not to commiserate with those who came to me to let me know what these brothers had done, but to ask them to remember these brothers in their prayers.After all, they didn’t need a counter-attack, they needed God’s mercy and forgiveness.James and John once wanted to call down fire from heaven when they weren’t treated well, but Jesus reminded them that he didn’t want their destruction, but their salvation (Luke 9:54).
Again, don’t think for a moment that I have mastered these suggestions, but they are principles that I try to consistently practice when I face angry, aggressive, accusers.They have helped me, and I think they can help you too.