I don’t know when I got my first email, but I have learned over the years that through emails one can communicate a thought, a message, or a directive immediately. Emails have revolutionized the way we keep in touch with each other.
I get lots of emails. I like getting emails. I like sending a note of encouragement to some hurting pastor via email. I like the idea of sending a greeting or an idea to a friend by an email. I like the idea that you can send and receive photos via email and even large files of things like sermons or documents.
I sometimes get encouraging emails that lift my spirit and brighten my day. They are always welcome, but I try to pass the praise on to Calvary, because I realize that our precious Lord is the only one worthy of praise.
And I don’t mind getting emails that are critical, especially if the criticism is not rude or cruel. If someone is just trying to be caustic or sardonic and has no interest in trying to be constructive or provide legitimate help, it is a bit more difficult to receive that kind of criticism with joy, but it is still important how we internalize those emails, respond to them, release them, and move on.
I have also discovered that when that kind of cruel, unkind criticism comes one can also pass that on to Calvary, because the One who is capable of taking praise without becoming egotistical is also able to take criticism without becoming disconsolate and bitter. Our precious Savior can handle it all.
However, I have discovered that it is wise to look for seeds of truth in criticism, because sometimes we tend to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, and honest, corrective criticism can inspire and encourage humility.
I have also discovered that fair criticism can open one up to new perspectives and creative ideas. It is easy to live in a cocoon and become so satisfied with your own view of life that you become extremely myopic in your outlook.
Obviously, there are some things that are central to my beliefs and theology that are steadfast and unmovable, but God forbid that I should become insensitive or oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of those around me.
I was present for a meeting with some African-American pastors recently and listened to them sharing their concerns and viewpoints about a variety of issues. I indicated that I had read books on African-American history and studied the masterful homiletical style of African-American preachers but having never walked in the shoes of an African-American man did not understand some of their thought processes. It was a wonderful learning experience for me. I realized that I need to do more listening and ask God for more understanding.
When criticism comes my way, I try not to react impulsively. I take a deep breath, whisper a prayer, and try to understand what is going on in the life of the person who wrote the email, pray that he/she is not becoming a negative person, and pray that God will provide some blessing in the life of the one who wrote the critical email.
I also realize that when one takes a stand for truth, criticism will come. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace for standing up for the truth. Stephen was stoned for telling the truth. Polycarp was killed for telling the truth. Felix Manz was drowned for believing the truth. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung by a piano wire for telling the truth. Jesus was crucified for being the Truth.
Oz Guinness stated, “At first sight, the biblical view of truth is obscene to modern minds. But on a deeper look, the biblical view is profound, timely, and urgent for today, even for those who reject it.”
As the editor of The Christian Index for the past 185 months I have tried to communicate my understanding and opinion of the truth on all subjects. While my view of truth may not be absolute, I do know that absolute truth is being ridiculed by many in our society today, but if our faith values are not true to God’s Word, they would be false even if the whole world believed it. But if our faith values are true to God’s Word, they would be true even if the whole world were against them. I pray that truth, as much as it is within us to understand it, and Bible-based convictions will continue to ring out from this publication long after I am gone.