On the Defense
When rejected, cling to the One who understands.
All of us have been in the cross-hairs of criticism. It may have come from a spouse, a parent, an adult child, or another family—all of which can be incredibly painful. It may have come in the form of gossip from fellow employees, or the biting comments of your supervisor. It may have come from those you were trying to serve spiritually—a small group, a class you taught, a volunteer slot in which you invested yourself.
When we find ourselves with a bull's-eye pinned to our backs, it's hard to know how to respond. Whatever we say can sound defensive. In this passage we're given some real help in how to respond to criticism, gossip, and slander. This is Paul's response to his own critics.
Paul writes 13 New Testament books and plays a central role in the planting of churches in the first century. But no one is immune to criticism and slander. In a number of passages we find Paul responding to these attacks. That's what Paul is doing in chapters 2 and 3 of this letter.
Let me put this in its context. On his second missionary journey, Paul goes to the influential city of Thessalonica. It is the capital of Macedonia. His brief mission there comes to an abrupt end. There is a public riot; serious legal charges are brought against Paul and his associate, Silas. And the believers there—to diffuse the situation—decide that Paul and Silas should leave the community immediately. And the two leave that night.
Paul's critics—who are unbelievers—take full advantage of Paul's sudden disappearance. They launch a malicious smear campaign. They want to undermine Paul's authority, as well as the gospel. I take it these attacks are effective. Criticism can—and does—undermine credibility. ...