Question:

How can I deal with the criticism of my friends and my own family when sometimes I get annoyed and a little angry. They always say something like, "You're a Christian and you are acting like that?" or "You're suppose to be holy and you are acting like that?" Even when I don't respond back to what they say, it really bothers me, and I feel like I don't want to be bothered with them anymore. But I keep my composure most of the time because if I lash out at them that's what Satan wants me to do. I forgive them, but what they say is stuck in my head. It's like they expect me to be perfect, which I am certainly not.

Answer:

If you can, just for a moment, separate your annoyances from what is really happening. I'm guessing that whatever recently happened, you know you did wrong since you agree that you are not perfect. What appears to be bothering you is that non-Christians are pointing out those flaws and holding you to a higher standard than they hold themselves. You resent the inconsistency.

If, then, my guess is correct, how should it be handled?

If you are doing wrong, then you should work on stopping. Wrong remains wrong regardless of who is pointing out the problem. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us" (I John 1:8-10).

Because of your anger you are overlooking an important point: these people think that Christians ought to be better than the average person. Is it bad that they hold some respect for Christians? "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).

Often people taunt a Christian for living to a higher standard because they know that they are not. They want to pull a Christian down to their level. In a sense it is a "See, being a Christian isn't that important because you aren't any better than I am." In this the teaser finds justification for his own sins. Yet, there is a subtle trap here. In your reaction you are beginning to think "well, no one is perfect." It is true, but is it a Christian's goal to be satisfied with imperfections? If we allow ourselves to accept sin in our lives, then the standard is lowered. Others then aren't motivated to do as well, and soon the standard slips downward again. "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy"" (I Peter 1:13-16). None of us will ever be as holy as God, so should God come down to our level? Of course not! Our striving to reach God's level makes us better people.

Understand, too, that on some level they are a bit jealous of what you've obtained so far. If they point out a flaw in yourself, pull the wind out of the sails by saying, "You're right. I need to work on that." Then you will seem to be more on their level, but you are acknowledging that both of you need to reach higher. "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29).