Paul, the Bold2 Corinthians 10:1-18Theme: Strength under pressure.This week’s lessons teach us how to handle criticism in a God-honoring way.
LessonIt is a difficult thing to be a leader, I suppose, or to be prominent in any way because the more prominent you are, the more criticism you get of one sort or another. That is certainly true of politicians. They are criticized by their opponents. Then if they are elected to the office they are seeking, they are the butt of constant criticism until eventually somebody displaces them, and they return to a normal way of life.
The same thing happens to leaders in the church. It is even true in the family. A person takes a position of leadership in the family, a father or a mother. The criticism is always there. If it comes from nobody else, it comes from the children. And it is a really great mark of maturity and of blessing on a life to know how to take that criticism, and remain firm, and serve in a way that continues to glorify God.
People react in different ways to criticism. One way is to become antagonistic. Many of the unpleasant things that go on are as a result of that. Some people retreat from criticism. Someone pointed out years ago in a newspaper article how common this is of American presidents. When they first begin their term as President of the United States, they want to be available to the people. They enjoy people. If they did not enjoy it they would not have run for office because you have to be with people constantly, shaking hands, eating chicken dinners, appearing at one club after the other, giving the same speech over and over again. But the article went on to say that, as the office wears upon them and as the years go by, it is a pattern with presidents to become increasingly remote. They withdraw behind the walls of their office. Fewer press conferences are held. They even take to flying around in their airplanes because at least for the hours they are in the air, they are beyond the criticism. Neither of those ways is an appropriate response.
Here in the tenth chapter of 2 Corinthians, as Paul begins again in this letter to talk about himself in a personal way, we see how one should react to criticism. This is the third section of the letter. You will recall from our earlier study that in the first portion of 2 Corinthians, Paul focuses on his change of plans, the Gospel, and Christian ministry. In chapters 8 and 9, he shifts gears and begins to talk about the offering that he was receiving from the Gentile churches. And then, when we get to chapter 10, Paul’s tone changes again, and, as nowhere else in his letter, he goes on at great length about himself. As a matter of fact, there is hardly a portion of Paul’s extant writings in which he is so personal as he is in these last chapters of this second letter to the Corinthians. He talks about his ministry. He talks in great detail about his sufferings. In the twelfth chapter, he talks about the thorn in his flesh, something that has puzzled scholars for a long time. And then, finally, he ends in a very personal word of commitment and greeting to these Christians.
Here as he begins chapter 10, and, therefore, begins this new section of his letter, he is dealing with the kind of criticisms which had come to him from some people there in Corinth. It is really a bit of a puzzle to figure out who these people were. First, Paul never analyzes the critics’ approach or their identity in any direct way because, of course, they were known to the Corinthians and to himself. But through putting together these incidental references, we learn some things about them.
Why is it important to handle criticism in the right way?
What are some wrong ways to handle criticism?
What is notable about the tenth chapter of 2 Corinthians?
Further StudyHow do you react when you are criticized by any one of the following: spouse, children, supervisor, pastor, friend?