There is a new sport among church leaders and it’s kind of like skeet shooting. It seems that every time something or someone is gaining attention, an opposite and equal reaction is certain. As you see a minister or ministry gain traction to the point of popularity, you can expect that the shots are coming.
Teaching on grace prompted criticism of “hyper-grace,” the power of the Holy Spirit drew Strange Fire, the joy of the Lord called out cries of “shallow” and on and on and on. The reactions actually tend to escalate the rhetoric to include words like “error” and even “heretic.” Godly men and women with fruitful ministries are reduced to sound bites to prove the superiority of the self-appointed whistle-blower.
Apparently, this has gone on in some form or fashion for centuries as Paul notes it in Philippians 1:15, “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.” There are false motives and the frailty of man intertwined with preachers going back to the 1st Century. It seems to just be part of the deal. I’m sure that the internet has escalated the frequency and volume of the criticism, probably even the malice as it is often easier to criticize via the cyber-insulation of the internet.
Unlike the modern-day defender of Truth as they know it, Paul goes on to say in v. 18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” In other words, Paul extends honor even where the motives of another alleged Truth-teller are in question. He rests in the proclamation of Jesus as enough for the purposes of the Kingdom.
When we think everyone else is wrong and we are right, can that be anything other than arrogance? When we really believe we have mastered the mystery to the point of certainty, doesn’t that elevate us beyond the need for the mind of Christ or wisdom of the Holy Spirit? When that occurs, our self-elevation based in a faulty premise inserts us into an attention grabbing place. The attention we gain in our criticism is attention that might otherwise be reserved for Jesus.
The world is not impressed with arrogant in-fighting and distracting extremes. The circus that results is attended only by modern-day pharisees of one flavor or another. Nobody seeking the grace and love of Jesus is drawn into Him as the bickering prevails around intellectual jousting and accusatory division.
When someone else is doing things differently than what you believe to be perfect, rejoice in the Jesus in their message. Look for the Christ that is present in them and their message and take joy in Him. Receive the Jesus in others and make much of Him even when you aren’t sure about the other stuff. Or take another shot in the already noisy battle-ground of friendly fire.