Jesus spoke and acted in controversial ways. His parables were designed to shock people out of their complacency. He spent time with wicked people. He pushed against the social expectations of what Messiah would be. His birth and class standing offended the prim. As a result, he constantly chafed against the religious authorities of the day, the keepers of the law.
What do you do with a Messiah who eats with tax collectors and prostitutes? What do you say when he tells stories that welcome prodigal sinners and deride you as the condemning “older brother”? As a religious leader, how do you respond when he flouts your rules or tells a tale of a priest and Levite walking by the victim of a mugging while a despised Samaritan plays the role of the good guy?
The resulting attacks heaped upon Jesus show us the norm. When we walk in Jesus’ steps, the very people who should approve of our words and actions may turn on us instead. They may say and do unkind things. In Jesus’ case, they crucified him and mocked him as he hung dying, smug and complacent that they were on God’s side as they murdered his Son.
When you venture out to serve, using your gifts and seeking to encourage others, you will be attacked, misunderstood, criticized, and shunned. Those who come against you will do so feeling they are on God’s side. Behind them stands the enemy, crafting the assault to hit your most tender spots. Usually these attacks come as you are experiencing the greatest power of God working through you in ministry.
Someone will feel it is their job to criticize every one of your sermons or teaching times. They will email you the following day. People may leave the church because they feel you have nothing to teach them. A vendetta about your choice of an illustrative graphic or church library paint may hound you for years. You may be heckled. Anonymous polling to improve a product for group use might result in a personal attack. Such is ministry.
None of this should surprise us. Jesus experienced the same things. But, attack muddies emotion. As you sift through the criticism, because you are a sinner and must determine if you’ve erred in some way, you may be assailed with doubt, false guilt, and hurt feelings. You may be tempted to give up.
This is why the Christ model is transformative and empowering. Jesus endured all these things, navigating the experience without ever sinning, though he was tempted in all things as we. He felt all the pain, misunderstanding, and social disapproval—even from those who should have been on his side.
We can take all our battered, assaulted emotion and offer it up to him to make sense of it. As we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, evaluating and attempting to respond as we should, we can know that God is at work, willing and acting for a good purpose in our lives (Phil. 2:12-13). The Lord is near, and we need not fear (Philippians 4:5-6).
“But even if you suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:14-15a).
His eyes are upon those who serve him. His ear is attentive to our cry (1 Peter 3:12; Ps. 34:15). He hears and delivers us. We can rest in him. He is close to the brokenhearted. He saves those who are crushed in spirit. “The righteous person has many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19).
As we apply the Christ-model, not only do we seek to love and submit like him, but we also follow his example when we are attacked and misunderstood. His comfort and his person, once more, are the cure and the model. Our Savior’s compassion, encouragement, tenderness, comfort, and fellowship empower us for whatever task he puts before us (Philippians 2:1-2).
As you serve the Lord, how are you encountering opposition and discouraging attack? How is he healing and comforting you in it?
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