May 30, 2017/Looking Beneath the Criticism

My youngest granddaughter has always had a true affinity for animals. It is one of her gifts that can spend hours with various animals and ‘train’ them to do things they might not be thinking about doing! She is also horse…crazy. And I mean CRAZY. If there is any way possible to connect her school work with the equestrian field, she will find it.

Horses and animals are her passion in life. It has become clear to me that her working future will need to have something to do with animals in order for her to be happy.

She has recently begun riding again after first being thrown from a horse and breaking her ankle, and then tripping outside and breaking it again. As expected, mom was a bit ‘fraught’ with worries when she went to her 4-H horse show and it came to jumping. The first show it wasn’t too bad as the jumps were merely two-feet. But, on Saturday, they were only jumping 2-feet and six inches.

Mom said ‘NO’ and a meltdown occurred. (Mom won out.)

While my granddaughter saw this as a challenge that she wanted to experience, my daughter had genuine grounds to call a halt: she hadn’t taken a jumping lesson for some time due to being out twice with injuries, the pony had seriously acted up getting onto the trailer earlier in the day; the jumps were at the top of the pony’s ability; and what is she fell again and re-injured herself?

My granddaughter just wasn’t ready to participate. Mom was correct in her assessment in criticizing my granddaugther’s judgment.

Most of the riders at the show received comments from the judges on why they earned certain standards in different classes and how to fix certain problems (like lead changes) and what to work on for future events. This feedback is an example of the ‘good’ criticism we can experience.

Dealing with criticism, however, is tough.

The last thing Christians want to hear (no matter how much we may pretend we want to accept it…is CRITICISM. In most of the recordings of Jesus’ time on earth, His criticism is wrapped up in parables so that what He is saying doesn’t immediately ‘sting’ his audience. In this passage below, however, as Jesus is about to be taken away right before his audience with the Jewish leaders and Pilate, Jesus has given up such subtly and rebukes his audience in a manner in which should have shamed the ones to whom it was directed.

Matthew 26: 49-55-And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.

Friend.

Jesus knew Judas was not His friend at this point. Judas, intent on betraying Christ wrapped the deed by calling Him, ‘Friend’ and sealed it with a kiss. Although outwardly Jesus’ friend, Judas was covering a heart now so corrupted by Satan that his use of ‘Friend’ is an abomination.

Then Jesus takes on his accusers. This same group that had every chance to listen to His teachings and publically disagree and argue their point, are so afraid of His popularity with the people that they come now to take and drag Him away in the dead of night with as much secrecy as possible?

Jesus is pretty much criticizing Judas and this arresting group as cowards, isn’t He? And He’s done it openly rather than wrapping it up in a story where they might miss His point!

In the midst of this criticism, Christ proclaims two truths for us to ponder:

1. No matter how we long to pick up weapons and fight, true conversion to God comes from the heart and spirit–not physical ‘strength’ of power.
2. Jesus had the ability to rid Himself of this situation. His death was not of His choosing. He could called have called twelve legions of angels to help Him. (Roman legions of soldiers consisted of between 4,000-6,000 soldiers.) So Jesus was proclaiming His ability to call between 48,000-72,000 angels to His side to stand with Him against those who had come to arrest Him! (II pretty much think that if Jesus had commanded that many angels to appear those who were against Him would have taken to their heels.

If we look beneath the surface, we find a deeper meaning that instructs us as His followers. Sometimes, as much as we hate to admit it, other Christians may NOT be our friends. They may proclaim friendship on the surface just as Judas did but become tools through which the devil may work against us.

That is a tough one to swallow. While we would LIKE to believe that we rise above such behavior, here is a warning about looking beneath the surface to the heart of human behavior–even with those we think we should trust. This is the ‘Look at what they do; not just what they say” lesson.

The second is encouraging and discouraging: God’s will will be done. Period. The Scriptures will be fulfilled. Jesus is attesting to this in no uncertain terms. The judgments seen in Matthew, Daniel, and Revelation will happen…just as the Exodus of the Hebrew workers came upon Pharaoh.

Hard times are coming…but God wins in the end.

Criticism can be offered with the best of intentions and the worst. It can benefit us and we may learn from it, or it can be deliberately hurtful. It can be offered with love or from jealousy.

Christians are to be wise and use discernment as they go about their daily lives. Recognize that it is within the heart and spirit that our real battles take place and ensure that we are walking as close to Jesus as possible so that we see those around us as they are so that we guard against the enemy intent on making us fall.

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