How to Deal with Criticism
Dr. J. Gerald Harris
In the verses of our text we find the criticism from the scribes and the Pharisees. The Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court of Jesus' day, was constantly trying to find fault with Jesus and with his disciples. In chapter two and chapter three of Mark's Gospel, they had already found Him violating the sabbath traditions. And now they were watching Him closely to see what else He might do.
In our text, they found the disciples of Jesus violating the Jewish tradition about the ceremonial washing of hands. The ritual had nothing to do with hygiene. It was purely ceremonial. In fact, it was a tradition that gave away their racial prejudice. The Jews were constantly washing their hands to get rid of whatever defilement they accidentally picked up from the gentiles and the Samaritans. And so, steeped in their traditions, and from their own biased viewpoint, they were criticizing the disciples of Jesus. They were finding fault with the disciples of Jesus.
And, of course, Jesus responds. He lets them know that tradition is not necessarily bad, but when tradition and ceremony has more authority than the Word of God, then it's wrong.
Now, I want you to know that I believe that there is such a thing as corrective criticism. There is just criticism; there is helpful criticism. William Penn said, "They have a right to criticize who have a heart to help."
I remember when I was just starting in the ministry, one of my mentors was a man by the name of Norfleet Gardner. Dr. Gardner was a retired pastor and he was serving as the interim pastor of a church during my first year in the seminary. He came to the seminary campus and asked me if I would be willing to serve with him in that church as an associate pastor during the interim period. I accepted that invitation, and by doing so I came under the authority of a man who was very loving, but who was a stern perfectionist.
Occasionally he would allow me to ...
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