The gospel transforms the way we receive criticism in four ways. First, it tells us we are created in the image of God. We have value because we are his handiwork (“fearfully and wonderfully made” [Psalms 139:14]). What we do has value because we imitate his creativity in creation. None of us is left without a touch of this creativity.
Second, the gospel tells us we are sinful. Charles Spurgeon once said, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” Often criticism stings because there may be a teaspoon of truth within the cup of criticism (or maybe a cup of truth within the teaspoon). We know we are sinful. But we almost always give ourselves the benefit of the doubt as we speak, act, and write. It’s hard to hear the perspective of someone who may not give us this benefit of the doubt.
Third, the gospel tells us are adopted by God. We have been declared righteous and joined his family and are now being transformed into the image of the Son of God. We are now much more than the sum total of our sins.
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:15-17)
Last, the gospel tells us we will be vindicated on the last day. The great American evangelist George Whitefield says, “I am content to wait till the judgement day for the clearing up of my reputation.” We should learn to be content now with the righteousness of Christ waiting for our final vindication. For some of us that means allowing our reputation to be tarnished for now.
My desire is to offer practical suggestions for receiving and giving criticism. These will be drawn from Scripture (“good and necessary consequences”) and the truths we discussed above from the gospel.
To be continued...