Friday, January 12, 2007

Every Good Deed Brings Critics

In today's New Testament reading, from Matthew 9, we find Jesus being criticized for doing good. First he meets a paralyzed man, who some friends bring to Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."

At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!"

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?
from Matthew 9.2-5
Of course the man gets up and walks. The crowd praised God (9.8), but we don't hear much from the critics.

Pretty soon, he invites Matthew to follow him as a disciple, and goes to dinner at his house. No points for guessing what happens next:
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
Matthew 9.11
Jesus straightens them out but then...
Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"
Matthew 9.14
Now that doesn't sound so nice -- disciples of John the Baptist criticizing him! What's that about?

What it's about, I'm afraid, is that there's no sure-fire way to avoid criticism, or to avoid being misunderstood. This is important for me to remember, because one of my pain points is being misunderstood (in fact my earliest memory is of not being understood).

And I sometimes think I wouldn't be misunderstood, or I'd avoid some criticism "if only I'd said that more clearly..." or "if I'd said this before doing that...." In other words, "If only I'd done it right, then I'd be safe."

Which is wrong. Jesus never did anything wrong, and here we see he got criticized anyway.

And then they killed him.

So it's good to remember that human understanding is imperfect. And that includes my understanding of others' words and actions -- so I should remember to hold my criticisms as well, because only the Lord knows what's in a man's heart.

written 1/13, posted 1/14

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