Slandered by Fellow Believers!

Coping with Rejection & Cruel Criticism

By Grantley Morris

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Billy Graham is perhaps the most widely-respected Christian leader in modern times. In a Christian bookshop I found stocks of tracts written solely to denounce him.

I think it literally impossible for any famous Christian leader in our times to avoid being virtually idolized by some Christians and maliciously condemned by at least some Christian leaders. I say it with tears: in my webpages I’m reluctant to mention the names of any famous Christians because no matter what famous Christian I name, there will be some devout Christians who will read no further because they regard whoever it is as a traitor to the cause of Christ.

I don’t think many Christians have condemned me. I take that as proof of how small time I am.

If you are unjustly criticized to the point of scandalous slander, you stand in holy company:

    Job 30:9 And now their sons mock me in song; I have become a byword among them.

    Psalms 31:11-13 Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends – those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life.

    Psalms 35:15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing.

    Psalms 119:23 Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees.

    Isaiah 66:5  . . . “Your brothers who hate you, and exclude you because of my name, have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ Yet they will be put to shame.”

    Jeremiah 9:4-5 Beware of your friends; do not trust your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning.

    Ezekiel 36:3  . . . they ravaged and hounded you from every side so that you became  . . . the object of people’s malicious talk and slander,

    Matthew 10:22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

    Matthew 10:25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!

    Luke 7:33-34 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”

    1 Peter 2:23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

    1 Corinthians 4:13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

    More

A friend, who is well known in some Christian circles, has kindly let me share the following with you. Although he was initially happy for me to name him, upon reflection he decided against it because the pastor mentioned is still living.

    I was once accused from the pulpit by my pastor of being a demon possessed, homosexual madman who was deceiving the people and sleeping with my mother.

    I smile about it now because, 21 years later, I know that those events were crucial to my spiritual education. I cannot begin to list all of the very painful yet profound lessons I learned, including that I was no better than that pastor, and that I was not only capable of doing the same thing, I actually wanted to do the same thing back to him. I needed Jesus, and I needed to die to self.

    I literally could not read the Bible for a year afterwards because of all these accusations that had been hurled at me. I’ve been healed. I have actually had a number of pleasant talks with that pastor since.

    Nevertheless, have you ever heard the saying, “The only bad publicity is no publicity?” I’ve learned over the years to let the skeptics rail and wail all they want, because all they are doing is advertising for me and making me look good. The only ones who listen to these people are those who do not want to believe anyway, and those sitting on the fence see my calm, cool demeanor and the emotional, irrational reaction of my critics, and they see through the veil.

Let me quote from my web book Waiting for your Ministry:

    ‘There was an old stone,’ said the warner,
    ‘Continually mocked by the Scorner.
    ‘It was neglected,
    ‘Despised and rejected,
    ‘Yet became the head of the corner.’

    What do you mean you’ve ‘found better poems in alphabet soup’? Soup-slurper! (The only thing separating me from a brilliant poet is ability.)

    Many of us have stifled our calling by heeding some misguided critic who implied we were not good enough.

    Few things in life are certain. For Christians, not even death is guaranteed (2 Kings 2:1,11; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Hebrews 11:5). But criticism is.

    Though spineless people-pleasers try hard, no one totally avoids criticism. Being right doesn’t help. Neither does loving everyone, or being perfect. The world crucified the only One with these qualities. Everything he did upset someone. He was criticized even by friends, family and religious leaders (e.g., Matthew 16:22; Mark 3:21; 6:2-4; John 7:1-5; Matthew 12:24). Twenty centuries later, with the advantage of hindsight, he is still slandered.

    Our highest ideal is to be like Jesus – like the One accused of being in league with Satan. If you know the pain of being misunderstood, spare a thought for the early Christians. They renounced Roman, Greek and Egyptian gods, called each other brother and sister, and partook of their Lord’s body in communion. As a result they were thought guilty of atheism, incest and cannibalism.

    John Bunyan, of Pilgrim’s Progress fame, was variously accused of being a witch, a Jesuit, a highwayman, having a mistress, and having whores and several illegitimate children.

    Whitefield and Wesley, acclaimed leaders of a revival that blazed through Britain and America, were bludgeoned by allegations with the graciousness of a meat-axe. Whitefield’s first sermon was said to have driven fifteen of his hearers insane. Bishop Lavington published a blistering attack upon the Methodists, accusing Whitefield of horrendous sins. It so confused the author of Whitefield’s obituary that he penned two portraits. One was of a saint and the other of a rogue. The revival leaders were blasted from every side. Wesley’s wife broke into her husband’s cabinet and stole correspondence which she doctored to appear he had been unfaithful to her. It poisoned many. Toplady, writer of Rock of Ages, believed her. Even on his death-bed he summoned strength to affirm he still despised Wesley.

    Young Hudson Taylor, outrageously in love, wrote a letter proposing marriage to a teenage girl in China. Unknown to him, Maria’s feelings were almost as hot. Excitedly, she took the letter to Miss Aldersey, a remarkable and dedicated missionary who deeply cared for her. ‘Mr. Taylor!’ exclaimed Miss Aldersey, ‘That unconnected nobody!’ She pressured shy, inexperienced Maria to rebuff the proposal. Fearing she may not have done enough to destroy the relationship, Miss Aldersey sought out Hudson’s friends to tell them he was ‘fanatical, undependable, diseased in mind and body ... totally worthless’. She even threatened with a lawsuit that ‘uneducated’ ‘unordained’ and ‘uncouth’ excuse for a missionary, while his darling Maria was kept under virtual house arrest, charged with being a maniac, indecent, weak-minded and obstinate. Later, with his China Inland Mission in its vulnerable infancy, the entire work was threatened by the unremitting onslaught of a missionary who thought it his godly duty to oppose the work. Not only did newspapers in Shanghai ruthlessly attack him, Hudson was blamed even in England’s parliament for political strife in China.

    Equally grave examples could be drawn for the lives of countless thousands of God’s storm troopers.

    So let’s not waste our lives trying to hide from criticism. If even cowardly yes-men cannot avoid it, the righteous don’t stand a chance. In fact, Jesus said ‘Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you.’ (Luke 6:26) Ministry that impresses heaven and ministry that impresses earth are popularity polls apart.

    Anyone highly respected by sections of the Christian church will invariably be scorned by other sections of the church.

    Great men and women of God, however, do not crumble under criticism. It may wound them, but they push on with what they believe is God’s calling. Spurning the way of least resistance and its pseudo peace, they choose what I call the peace de resistance.

    Disclaimer

    I don’t like to brag, but I have a certain air about me – especially after eating garlic.

    Check out a few possibilities before assuming the cause of unpopularity is divine.

    The Arm-Chair Army

    Those who share the fragrance of Christ with a putrid world may receive much flak from Christians. It is such a difficult task in the front line that many of us desert our posts and become self-appointed critics of those who remain at the front.

    Methods that most effectively win new converts will seldom woo long-established Christians. Their needs and tastes are a world apart. So an effective evangelist will probably incur the displeasure of those Christians who want to be the center of attention.

    When the critics start, determining who is right can be difficult. Christians with the greatest enthusiasm are often the least experienced. Those who have succumbed to pressure and abdicated their responsibility are still likely to know more than those with less experience.

    Your critics might know more than you do. Their advice could be from God. So it demands prayerful consideration.

    When Rev. Oldschool gives us a hard time, it’s tempting to stray to greener pastors. We must be cautious. If we cannot find Christians as mature and experienced as our critics who fully support our actions, we are probably the ones who are wrong. (Proverbs 9:8-9; 10:17; 12:1; 13:18; 27:5)

    Nevertheless, Scripture narrates the tragic consequences of a man of God who mindlessly followed what an old prophet claimed was divine guidance. (1 Kings 13:11-24) Though we should humbly respect our elders in the faith, we each have a personal responsibility to seek God on matters related to ministry and guidance.

    If the Lord clearly indicates our critics’ opinion is not from him, we must reject it, though without rejecting the critics themselves or spurning their advice on other matters.

    So love and respect your knockers, but don’t let them stunt a God-given ministry.

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Another Thought

People often let us down. It’s such a source of heart ache. And yet I’ve found one consolation:

If people never disappointed me, life would be unbearable. What a miserable freak I’d feel, living on a planet where I’m the only one who makes mistakes!

For more encouragement about coping with criticism, see:

Not to be sold. © Copyright, 1985-95, 2011, Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net  Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.


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