Everyone’s a Critic

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 149, Zephaniah 3:14-20, Revelation 18:1-14, Luke 14:1-11


First-century Galilee, like all other Jewish provinces, was under Roman rule. Many of its affairs were still handled locally by a succession of Jewish governors (tetrarchs) descended from Herod the Great, also commonly called Herod. Herod Antipas was the governor of the Galilean province, where Jesus was most active with his ministry.

When some Pharisees warned Jesus that Herod was looking to kill him, Jesus did not seem at all intimidated. He said: “It is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem […] the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” Jerusalem, in the neighboring Judean province, was the center of Jewish political, cultural, and religious life. As is the case with many seats of power, it was prone to silence its critics – sometimes violently.

Members of an institution, especially if they feel attacked, are likely to defend it against critics both internal and external. For many of us, the fear of flaws being exposed (if only to ourselves and our peers) outweighs the legitimacy of the criticism. The church is as susceptible to this behavior as other institutions; church history, from the Vatican to countless televangelists to local congregations, is full of cover-ups and scandals. While scandals damage the reputation of individuals, cover-ups erode or obliterate the credibility and moral authority of the church itself.

If we listen to our internal critics – those who call out hypocrisy, ethics violations, inconsistencies, and other problems – we can correct ourselves before the whiff of decay attracts external critics, who are more invested in our comeuppance than our survival. Silencing them leads to an eventual implosion and leaves us nothing but spiritual rubble.

Let’s listen to the voices that make us uncomfortable. Let’s do some soul-searching to figure out whether our defensiveness is triggered because we think they’re wrong – or because we secretly don’t want to admit they are right. That might sound scary, but it’s incredibly liberating to truly know yourself and your own heart. Institutions and reputations can be undone, but no critic can destroy an honest relationship with our loving God.

Comfort: Integrity only improves your relationship with God.

Challenge: When people criticize you or your group, try to understand where they are coming from, rather than immediately responding or defending.

Prayer: Lord of Truth, help me to face truths no matter how difficult they may be to accept, for I know truth will draw my heart closer to yours. Amen.

Discussion: What is some of the best criticism you have received?

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