I was shocked! Displayed on the computer screen in front of me were the web stats for our church website. The shock wasn’t the fact that I was checking the stats, but our one-day stats were double what we had done in any one month! Who in the world thinks we are cool today?
Our stat system is pretty nifty for a non-tech guy like myself. Simply scrolling down the list of stats I came to the spot that tells us what websites our visitors are coming from. Excited, I clicked on the first link that showed the largest amount of visitors. As the webpage came up, my heart sank.
I began reading the blog entry that linked our website and realized I had stumbled upon one of those criticizing Christian websites. You know the ones. Those who make it their calling from to dismember every ministry in the world, even the ones they attend. Anger and hatred rushed off the pages. I don’t know what I had expected. Not what I was reading for sure; I would have been less shocked if it was a girlie site or something.
I did what I should have never had done. I read every word of the blog and comments against me, my newfound church community and the staff that served with me. They picked apart our visual communications of the gospel. They picked apart my personal bio and family, criticizing everything from how young our staff was and even calling us heretics who serve a different Jesus than the Bible teaches. Entry after entry rang with anger and hatred.
This was the first time that I had others publicly criticize me. Probably wouldn’t have been so bad, but these were other brothers in Christ. It wasn’t the last time either.
I learned a lot from that day.
I learned that I am part of a very dysfunctional family called the Church. We (myself included) can be some the meanest people, especially hiding behind a computer screen. We have masked judging each other within the body of Christ in sanctification of methods and theology, not ever really doing either. We have added “a critical spirit” to our list of spiritual gifts.
I learned that I was just as guilty as those that attacked me. I had foolishly criticized so many other Christian leaders and ministries during my lifetime, dogging them out of my ignorance and anger, making knee-jerk decisions. I was fast to point out the imagined speck in their eye, thinking that I held some Holy insight and perspective. My problem was my angry reactions to things I didn’t like about them, but it doesn’t really matter what I think.
I learned that criticism is healthy if done correctly, especially in a dysfunctional family. Abuse is usually covered over and silence rules the discussion on the situation. Yet, when abuse is present, the healthiest thing to happen is to discuss the situation correctly. There is a right and wrong way to handle the confrontation.
I need to learn how to look at others correctly. In the New Testament writing of Luke, Jesus tells an amazing parable of a man who wants to take sawdust out of his friend’s eye, but he has a plank in his own eye. What if the very thought of looking for fault in others is “the plank” in our own eye? And the perceived speck in others is really just the plank in our own? The critical eye is blinded by ignorance and self. The arrogance of having it all figured out and being the referee on a matter that God never called us to ref.
I need to also learn how to take criticism. In the Old Testament, there is a story of King David being criticized by a man named Shimei. He is cursing and throwing stones at “a man after [God’s] own heart.” David’s servant Abishai says, “Let me go over and cut off his head.” As I read the story, I would want to cut off this guys head for messing with God’s servant, but David saw things differently. “No, if the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?”
As we, the younger generation of the followers of Jesus, begin to mold the Christian landscape for today and the future, let us be quick to mercy, grace, forgiveness and slow to cast stones, judgment and angry criticism. We need to define ourselves by what we believe in (Jesus) and not define ourselves by what upsets us or what we dislike. Let’s not trap ourselves into being offended over godless chatter and foolish arguments (2 Tim. 2:14-16). Let’s center everything on the Lord Jesus Christ, examining ourselves everyday, criticizing every avenue of our own life and committing ourselves to being who Jesus created us to become.
By our love for each other they will know that we are followers of Jesus. Hope the world doesn’t read Christian blogs.