Criticism Leads to Vulnerability
Matthew went out of his way to include the allusion to the unsavory circumstances surrounding Solomon’s birth. He easily could have left out the phrase or said “by Bathsheba” instead of “by the wife of Uriah.” Instead, he helps us see how God worked to redeem the sin that David committed and from which he later repented.
As if this weren’t enough grace for David, Jesus—the King of all Kings and the true Prince of Peace—would later identify himself as “the son of David” and would call David “a man after God’s own heart” (see Acts 13:22).
There are many things we can learn from the life of David. There are many ways that we, as leaders, can look to David as an example and for inspiration. But one of the most important things we must learn from him is how essential it is to position ourselves to regularly receive criticism from those around us—especially those who know us best, such as colleagues, friends, and family members—and also to receive it humbly, with gratitude, and with resoluteness to change. Our character must matter more to us than our reputation. We must learn to love the light, even when it exposes the darkness in us, instead of running and hiding from the light.
And this, in spite of his many faults, was where David shined. The aftermath of the Bathsheba scandal presents to us a portrait of greatness—not because David was perfect, but because he was ready and willing to own his imperfection and to do so publicly. His greatness was found in his readiness to humble himself. In this, he shows us one of the key evidences that the Holy Spirit dwells within: a willingness to lose face when he could have easily saved face and a readiness to repent when he didn’t have to because he was the one holding all the power.
David could have done the same thing to Nathan that he had previously done to Uriah—finish the man off in order to save his own hide and reputation. But he did not. Instead, David chose to listen, humble himself, repent, and seek restoration.
Writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard wrote, “The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment.” By this standard, David was a great leader.
Why would David choose repentance over defensiveness and saving face? Better yet, why would we? The answer should be easy. It is for the health of our souls.
Think about it. We welcome the probing and scrutiny of our bodies by doctors. We give them access to our private parts. We say “Yes, of course” when they ask to do an x-ray to evaluate our physical health. We let them probe and prick and cut and inflict wounds to prevent other, greater wounds from destroying us. Why then would we be any less receptive when it comes to allowing those closest to us the most intimate access to our souls and our character? Shouldn’t we allow them—even invite them—to probe, prick, cut, and wound us so that our souls might be healed?
Indeed, sometimes bringing out the best in people includes lovingly exposing the worst in them. But do we believe this?