Harsh and Unjust Criticism

Are you better at receiving harsh and unjust criticism or giving it? Would you rather be on the receiving end or the giving end of harsh and unjust criticism? If we admit it, most of us are a lot better at handing out this kind of criticism than we are at receiving it.

Abraham Lincoln was probably slandered, libeled, and hated more intensely than anyone ever to run for the presidency.

Following the 1860 campaign, most of the nation couldn’t comprehend how this seemingly awkward country lawyer from the West had been elected president. Harsh and unjust criticism didn’t subside after Lincoln took the oath office, nor did it come only from Southern sympathizers. It came from within the Union itself—from Congress, from some factions within the Republican Party, and initially, from within his own cabinet. As president, Lincoln learned that no matter what he did, there were going to be people who would oppose him. As his enemies increased, so did the criticism against him. But President Lincoln handled it all with patience, forbearance, and determination that wouldn’t characterize most people—either then or now.

Our Lord Jesus also endured harsh and unjust criticism. In the house of Matthew one day, Jesus was disapprovingly chided by the Pharisees for eating with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11). On another occasion, our Lord was censured in his hometown of Nazareth because of his family background and poverty (Matthew 13:53-56). When Philip told Nathanael that he had found the promised Messiah and that he was from Nazareth, Nathanael was critical of where Jesus lived (John 1:43-46). And the Pharisees one day condemned Jesus for allowing a sinful woman to touch him by anointing his feet and drying them with her hair (Luke 7:36-39).

At times, harsh and unjust criticism will also come your way and mine. But when this becomes our experience, let’s remember the admonition of Peter: “When they hurled their insults at him (Jesus), he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him to judges justly’ (1 Peter 2:23). May we do the same!

—Paul W. Brubaker
March/April, 2010