One of the occupational hazards of pastoral ministry is that you are often the subject of people's destructive criticism, gossip, slander, misrepresentation, foolish inferences, ignorant speculations, and the like. And any pastor who's being honest with himself - even a hard-nosed guy like me - will admit that the hurtful things people say are just that - hurtful. They hurt.Put another way, when others disapprove you based on uncharitable judgments, rely instead on Jesus, who accepts you on the basis not of YOUR righteousness but of his.
How do you heal the hurt? How do you prevent the hurt from festering, from becoming a root of bitterness toward your enemies?
The answer is to remember this: you are far worse than your enemies make you out to be! They don't know the half of it.
Now they may not be correct or truthful in what they are saying about you, but you (and your spouse) could tell them things about yourself that would make their mouths hang open in shock and disbelief. You could tell them things about yourself that would make their petty criticisms pale in comparison. After all, what is wrong with you is so wrong, that it took the one perfect person who ever lived to die for you and suffer God's wrath for you.
Now I know that this may not seem all that encouraging - in fact, you might think that it would only make matters worse. You're already wounded. Why pour salt into the wound?
And let me say that it would be very discouraging if you stopped with bringing to mind what a mess you are. So don't stop short. Go farther. Go all the way to the cross and realize that even though you are far worse than your enemies think you are, Jesus went to the cross willingly. He was not reluctant to die for you: "No one takes my life away from me, but I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:18)! Even though you are a million times worse than any of your enemies know, Jesus does know, and he loves you anyway. The cross proves it.
The late Jack Miller used to put it this way: "Cheer up! You're worse than you think." In a strange way, this does put a smile on my face. As bad as people may think I am, I'm worse than they think, even worse than I think, but Jesus knows me fully and loves me so much that he went to the cross in my place.
For Pastors Who Are Feeling Disapproval From Others
Bob Glenn offers a helpful perspective for pastors on the "Red Meat for the Soul" blog: