When Jesus finished telling these stories, he left there, returned to his hometown, and gave a lecture in the meetinghouse. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise, get such ability?” But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “We’ve known him since he was a kid; he’s the carpenter’s son. We know his mother, Mary. We know his brothers James and Joseph, Simon and Judas. All his sisters live here. Who does he think he is?” They got their noses all out of joint.
But Jesus said, “A prophet is taken for granted in his hometown and his family.” He didn’t do many miracles there because of their hostile indifference. (Matt. 5:53-58 MSG)
Do you ever want to run and hide from criticism or rejection? If you’ve ever spoken to a crowd, taught a small group, written for publication, or communicated your faith in any way, you may have faced a fickle crowd. And you might identify with this story from Matthew 5.
I noticed a few helpful truths in this passage.
- Jesus used stories to communicate.
- People praised Him at times.
- People also criticized Him.
- Jesus stayed in tune with His audience.
- Jesus moved on, when criticized.
Facing criticism and rejection. Reading the account of how Jesus handled this crowd reminds me of an event from my past.
When my close friend, Sara, invited me to her Sunday School class, I hesitated, uncertain if I would fit in. But since her friend, Glenda, taught the class, I agreed to visit.
Hoping I found the right place, I slipped in the door and scanned the room for a familiar face. No one seemed to notice that I had entered. I found a seat close to the door, in case I needed to make a quick exit. I fiddled with my purse, hoping my insecurity would not be obvious.
I got up the nerve to survey the room again, and my eyes met Glenda’s cold stare. I looked back down at my purse, pretending to search for something, as I questioned myself. Am I in the right place? Is this a closed group? Have I done something to offend her? Maybe I’m reading her wrong.
As I fought the urge to escape, I gripped the edge of the cold, metal seat and leaned forward just as Sara walked in the door. Her warm smile calmed my nerves. And as she sat down in the empty chair next to me, I found the courage to stay.
Pleasing people? After several painful interactions with Glenda over the next few months, I listened to some sound advice from my husband Dan: “Some people just aren’t going to like you.”
What seemed to be common sense to Dan, took me by surprise. Up to that time, I believed that I could always find some way to make people like me. I had been successful at pleasing people most of my life—until I met Glenda. She decided that she wasn’t going to like me. Why? Who knows? I could do nothing, but forgive her and move on.
Facing a new year. I realize that I will always face fickle crowds. And I am still tempted to try to make them like me. But the Bible assures me of God’s unconditional love.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)
I also hope to remember the example that Jesus gives us in Matthew 5 the next time I face a fickle crowd. So, as I prepare to meet the challenges of a new year, I plan to …
- Continue to tell the stories that matter most.
- Offer thanks for the praise I receive.
- Ask for God’s help to deal with criticism.
- Stay in tune with my audiences.
- Move on, when criticized.
What helps you, when you face a fickle audience?