If you’ve ever had to lead any group of people you have most likely had experience with detractors. These are the people who are consistently against your ideas, vision, and general leadership. Depending on their personality, they will hound you or cut you down behind your back. Either way, they work against you at every turn. Jesus had detractors. How did he respond to them?
Jesus’ most famous detractors were the Pharisees. But, he had others. The Scribes, Herodians, and Romans were all, at one time or another, detractors. Jesus was offering a way to God that clashed with their ideas. In their view, Jesus was a radical who had to be stopped. How did Jesus respond to his detractors?
Six Ways Jesus Responded to His Detractors
1. He anticipated them.
Sometimes Jesus’ detractors were passive-aggressive, but Jesus “knew what they were thinking” (Luke 6:8), and was able to deal with their critique even before they had time to verbalize it.
When making a big decision always try to anticipate negative feedback and prepare a response. If you can answer your detractor’s questions even before they ask them, you can defuse the anxious confrontation. You also show them that you understand the way they think.
2. He confronted them.
Jesus was ready to confront his detractors when necessary (Matt. 23:13). Jesus wasn’t afraid to speak the hard truth when his detractors stepped over the line. Jesus did not allow them to bully him. He put them in their place. He confronted them with their own hypocrisy and pointed out the inconsistencies in their judgment (Mark 7:13).
Sometimes you have to stand up to a bully. Confrontation is, at times, the best way to move forward. Whatever you might lose in the confrontation will be more than compensated with forward movement and new-found respect from those who have been quietly waiting for someone – anyone – to confront the bully.
3. He listened to them.
Jesus took time to listen to everyone – even those who were against him (John 3:1). When one of the Pharisees from the Ruling Council came to him under that cover of night, Jesus listened to his questions and patiently explained the core message of his teachings (John 3:3).
Take time to listen to your detractors. They will be more open to hearing your side when they feel like you have listened to them. It’s possible that they might change their minds. It’s also always possible for you to learn from them. Remember, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
4. He warned them.
Jesus warned his detractors that they were headed in the wrong direction (Matt. 25:31-46). He saw every person as redeemable and took the time to explain the ways of God – even to those who were not likely to accept it. He made clear the consequences of destructive behavior and following the wrong gods.
When you have a clear vision of where God wants you to go, it is only fair to warn those who are trying to take you in a different direction. Warning someone that they are driving towards a cliff is the only loving thing to do.
5. He dined with them.
Jesus hung out with his detractors (Luke 7:36). Jesus’ detractors always seem to be nearby – in the synagogue, in the house, in the countryside – wherever we might find Jesus, we often find his detractors. Jesus did not hide from his detractors – on the contrary – he sought them out and dined with them.
Abraham Lincoln is famous for having put together a “team of rivals” for his White House leadership team. It’s important to hear voices that would contradict yours. It’s important to hear other perspectives. Don’t shy away from your detractors. In fact, when you seek them out they learn to respect you because they can see that you are not afraid of them.
6. He forgave them.
No matter how hateful his detractors were, Jesus was willing to forgive them. Even when they were crucifying him – he forgave them (Luke 23:34). Jesus could see his detractors the way his heavenly Father saw them – hurting, sinful people who simply needed a savior.
It’s important to separate the complaints of your detractors from their personhood. At the end of the day, your detractors are just human beings – sinful and in need of a savior – just like you. Keeping things in perspective helps you to forgive them when they hurt you.
Detractors will always be with us. Sometimes they are well-intentioned. Any leader must learn to work with them, not against them. They can actually help us grow and flourish … if we learn to deal with them in honorable ways and keep the main thing the main thing.
I’ll end with what Paul said about his detractors (Phil. 1:15-19):
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.”