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Responding to Criticism (2)

Acts 11:9-14
'The voice spoke from heaven a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man's house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, "Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved."' (NIVUK)

Peter's visit to the home of the Gentile, Roman centurion, Cornelius attracted criticism from the church in and around Jerusalem. They believed that only the Jews were God's people and so Gentiles were excluded unless they first became Jews. But God was doing a new thing. Anybody could receive eternal life if they believed in Jesus (John 3:16).

Peter knew that the way he handled this complaint would affect the progress of the gospel. So the Lord gave him wisdom in responding. He recounted all the events leading up to his conviction that the Lord was rebuking his arrogance in placing a redundant rule before obedience to the Spirit's voice (Acts 10:19). The Lord also arranged the timing perfectly. No sooner had Peter been challenged three times in his vision, when the men arrived from Cornelius saying that he had also had a vision commanding Peter to bring the gospel message to them.

The Lord always goes ahead of what He expects of us (John 10:4). The servants found Peter exactly where Cornelius was told in his vision. Peter was prepared not to regard them as unclean, but as a gospel opportunity. That was confirmed as the servants retold what the angel said Peter had to do – to bring the message from God through which that Gentile household would be saved. This narrative was clear evidence that none of the people involved could have made it up. It was authentically of God.

In responding to criticism about how you have followed the Lord, it is good to simply tell the story of how the Lord has prepared you to do something unusual (Mark 5:19). Obviously it would not be against the teachings of the apostles, but might be outside of your traditional experience or that of the people close to you. Your critics might claim that they want to protect the church, the community or even you and your family; but you need to uphold the honour of the Lord. You can only be a witness, telling what He has done and how He has provided for you. Then leave them to be accountable to Him.

Almighty God. Thank You for drawing people's attitudes and circumstances together to achieve Your purposes. Forgive me when I get frightened and discouraged by criticism, when it may be an opportunity to be Your witness, and tell what You have done in leading me. Please help me to be ready to defend the truth with facts rather than emotional outbursts. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams