Some Thoughts About Critics

Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, "Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?" Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, `Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' But I replied, `By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But a second time the voice answered from heaven, `What God has made clean, you must not call profane.' This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man's house. He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, `Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.' And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, `John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?" When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life." (Acts 11:1-18)

"So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him."  We have a long history of criticizing one another in the church. This may be the first recorded incident among Christians.

In the Gospel for today, Jesus says: Love one another. This is how the world will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. He does not say: the world will know you are my disciples because you criticize one another. And yet we do criticize one another. A lot. And we do it for all the world to see.

I know and believe that there are times when we may need correction, and there are ways to correct and re-direct one another in love. I accept that this is a difficult and gray area. But the vast majority of the church fighting I see out there (both in parishes and on a much larger scale) is not correction in love. It's criticism in the "finding fault with" sense and even condemnation.

God is working in all of us. And sometimes in mysterious ways. Read again the story of Peter coming to understand the inclusion of the Gentiles in God's plan of salvation and note the role of the critics in the story. And then just go out there and love one another for the sake of the Gospel.