Are You Getting Criticized?

I’ve been reading I Corinthians, II Corinthians, and Galatians recently, and noticed something in all three: Paul spent a LOT of time defending himself and his message from attacks.  Paul had a pretty simple message: to be a Christian, you need to put your faith in Christ.  Period.  Nothing else.  Nothing about baptism.  No dietary laws.  No circumcision and annual temple offering required.  Just Christ.

For some reason, some people didn’t like that message.  They wanted Gentile believers to become Jews, not just Christians.  It makes sense, given that Christianity started as an offshoot of Judaism, but it quickly became something else.

Paul also had to defend himself against charges that he was an unworthy teacher!  I know, Paul only wrote about half the new testament, but in his day he was accused of all kinds of things.  One was that he shouldn’t be listened to because he didn’t charge people for his teaching!  That’s like saying I would be a real math tutor if I charge $25/hour, but if I tutor someone in my church for free, I’m not a “real” tutor.

So what’s my point?  Simply this: Paul got a lot of grief as an apostle from people who didn’t like one aspect or another of his very simple message.  How much are you getting?  Note: Paul wasn’t getting criticized just by non-Christians, but also by people who professed to be Christians!  He was going for a purity of message that resulted in him pissing off almost EVERYBODY!

There is a movement in the United States in many circles to promote acceptance/tolerance of almost anything in the name of getting people saved.  This is a double-edged sword.  It has a point, but is dangerous.  As an example, the Bible clearly spells out that engaging in homosexual relations is a sin.  It also clearly spells out that lying is a sin.  When trying to lead someone to Christ, you don’t normally insist that a person stop telling any lies, and then get saved.  You use it as evidence of the need for salvation, and the Spirit’s work in their lives to reduce the amount of lies as evidence that the salvation was real.  The same is true of homosexuality: it is evidence of the need for salvation, but it is the Spirit’s job to work on the person to remove the sin from his/her life.  If a person professes to be a Christian, we are to confront that person with their sin in love, with the goal being for the person to confess and repent (stop doing) of it.

Some churches have decided that it is easier to get people saved if they don’t harp on not sinning.  The result is a church where it’s okay to lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, etc.  They then criticize traditional churches for being “mean” or “divisive” or “unwelcoming”.  The funny thing is, non-Christian organizations embrace these “churches”, but not the “mean” ones.

Paul got criticized for calling out people who put too many burdens on new believers, and for calling out sin in professing believers.  He got hit from both sides, being called legalistic, non-legalistic, unprofessional (for not taking money for preaching), and money-driven (for collecting money for Jerusalem).  He was buffeted from all sides from supposed friends and enemies.  This happened because he was driving for a very precise balance.  Are you?

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