14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them…. 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable…. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.

20 Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Criticism is one of the hardest things for a leader, in part because so many are driven by a desire for approval. This passage speaks to the very heart of that issue. I think I can sum up these verses with two main points. First, a leader’s response to criticism will reveal his heart — his faith and his character. And second, that critics have their place. We need them because they can provide contrast and excellent feedback.

Nothing exposes a leader like a good critic. People who get under our skin, who persecute us or who find fault with every attempt to move an organization forward can fester like nothing else. They try us most because they are immune from all of our skills of influence and persuasion. They therefore quickly expose our foundations. Do we really have faith in God’s sovereignty? Do we really believe that God will deal with them? And what is our character made of? Are we really honorable, kind and full of grace? Or are we vengeful and vindictive, impatient and short-tempered?

I got a recent insight on this topic from Shepherding a Child’s Heart. When kids are bullied at school, what do parents teach them? Tedd Tripp’s response draws straight from Romans 12:

It doesn’t take grace from God to ignore the oppressor. It doesn’t take supernatural grace to stand up for your rights. To do good to oppressors, however, to pray for those who mistreat you, to entrust yourself to the just Judge, requires a child to come face-to-face with the poverty of his own spirit and his need of the transforming power of the gospel.

So, whether we’re a leader or a child, God calls us to a higher standard that cannot be achieved apart from His supernatural grace at work in our own lives. What’s the condition of our own hearts?

Since I’ve taken so long composing this post, I’m going to go ahead and publish part 1.

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