We Press On.
Few things in life are more painful than being misunderstood; to do what you think is best and right, only to have people question your motives or criticize your actions. It’s nothing new. Jesus always had the purest of motives, yet he was one of the most misunderstood persons in human history...even now. But that did not detract Him from His mission, nor should it detract us from ours. A friend of mine says, “You often find the most rocks under the trees with the most apples.” That’s his way of saying that criticism is one of the results of serving and producing good fruit.
We’ve taken our share of criticism for launching the Richmond Road vision. It is to be expected and frankly, it could get worse! If I weren’t a believer, I’d probably be pretty skeptical myself. Honestly. Anything that is big or visionary usually draws skepticism. It just comes with the territory. Let me offer a few suggestions for dealing with it.
- Be kind when others aren’t. I’ve discovered that many people who are critical are also unhappy. They often have a lot of pain in their lives and, in an odd way, it can feel therapeutic to express negativity. We’re all fighting hard battles, so always be a little kinder than is necessary. Don’t give people permission to be your enemy. That’s a choice you can always make.
- Invite them to “come and see.” When Philip expressed strong skepticism about Jesus being the Messiah, Nathaniel simply said, “Come and see.” (John 1:46) I sometimes invite people who are highly critical of Southland to try attending for six weeks. Then I say, “If you still feel that we’re chasing power and money, or that we’re not loving or authentic, I’ll buy you a steak dinner at the restaurant of your choice.” I’ve discovered that people who “come and see” often change their opinion. The old saying is true-- People tend to be down on what they’re not up on. Worst case scenario, I have a good lunch and make a new friend!
- Let your deeds speak for you. If you’re doing the right thing, your friends won’t need an explanation and your enemies won’t believe one. At the end of the day, our actions are the things that people will remember. Long after people forget what we say, they’ll remember how we made them (or others) feel. Peter put it like this, “Live decent lives among unbelievers. Then, although they ridicule you as if you were doing wrong while they are watching you do good things, they will praise God on the day he comes to help you.” (I Peter 2:12) Jesus was equally clear, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
- Finally, pray for them. You do know that God loves them, don’t you? Jesus died on the same cross for them that He died on for you. They’re on a journey too, same as you. Pray that God might order their steps. Pray that someone would love them and believe in them. Pray that they might be encouraged and continue to seek truth. All of us need that, for sure.
Well, I’m convinced He’s leading us. Are you? Let’s not forget that. When you’re walking in the darkness never forget what He has shown you in the light. We press on.
Gary Black, Richmond Road Campus Pastor