Overcome critics with kindness, Dykes says at Southern Seminary chapel
Pastors should choose love rather than discouragement when mean-spirited people criticize their ministries, said Southern Baptist leader David O. Dykes during a March 22 chapel message at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Brothers and sisters, you’re going to encounter some mean people even in the church today. But God has called us to show forth the fruit of the Spirit; God has called us to show forth his light and his love,” said Dykes, member of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and two-time Southern Seminary alumnus. He is also pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas.
Preaching from Romans 12:17, Dykes said true community fellowship engenders a proper attitude toward divisive people within the church. Although it’s part of the fallen human nature to seek revenge, Dykes said Christians should resist that impulse. A sinful nature makes it instinctive to even the score, but Christianity offers a different way.
“Jesus turned ethics on its side when he said, ‘No, you treat people the way you want to be treated,’” Dykes said.
Peace in all interpersonal relationships is possible, but there are some people who resist. Dykes said that while believers should not assume they will be at peace with everyone, they should at least offer peace even to their enemies.
Believers should hold to doctrinal convictions tightly, Dykes said, and that might mean they lose some friends. Dykes himself has been criticized by liberals for his stance on homosexuality. Yet Dykes believes Christians should not make enemies because of their attitude toward other people.
“You may create enemies because of your position, but you should never create enemies because of your disposition,” he said.
Noting the injunction in Romans 12:19 to “leave room for God’s wrath,” Dykes said Christians should allow God to do what he promised and repay evil for evil himself. During Alabama’s conservative resurgence among Southern Baptists, Dykes found himself and his family in the middle of nasty, vitriolic criticism. He said he needed to let God do his own work, and not try to change people’s opinions himself.
“Give God room to deal with the people that treat you harmfully and hatefully,” he said.
Dykes noted that Christians are called to imitate Jesus Christ in 1 Peter 2, which calls believers to follow Jesus by enduring insults and criticisms without retaliating. Like Christ, Christians should entrust themselves to the God who always judges justly.
Dykes said Christians should treat their critics and enemies with the same grace and gentleness they received from God. The Christian can love others without being loved in return, he said, and overcome their attacks with genuine forgiveness, he said. Pastors should show kindness to their enemies and experience a more rewarding ministry as a result.
“I’m here standing as a testimony that after 40 years of being a pastor, I’ve encountered a lot of mean people,” Dykes said. “But I’m still as happy as I’ve ever been serving the Lord in the ministry. Don’t let those mean people discourage you and slow you down. Continue to love the people and preach the Word of God.”
SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. began the chapel hour by discussing the March 22 terrorist attack in Brussels, Belgium, which killed at least 30 people and injured 230. After noting the horror of such a situation, Mohler urged the seminary community to pray for the victims and and their families.
“It’s very easy for us to think, ‘you know, that is a long way away, that’s a remote headline.’ There’s no promise that is stays that way,” he said, before praying that the attack “that was intended for so much horror can be at least in some case an opening for the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Audio and video of the chapel service are available online at sbts.edu/resources.