by Pastor John Stout
The road to piety is through the closed doors of criticism. As I reflect on my day and dwell on what the spirit is saying to my soul, it usually reminds me of my thoughts towards that of others. It reminds that a spirit of criticism is not the spirit of God. It also reminds me of the mercy I receive daily and that instead of criticism of others I l’d rather embrace two other spiritually healthier habits in my life.
First read the words of Paul to the Roman church at that time.
Romans 2:1-4, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
The first is to dwell on my own mistakes and short comings rather than others.
When we really sit down and recognize our own short comings and ways in which we need the mercy of God, we start to adopt a heart of forbearance, patience, and kindness towards others. The writer John Jowett talks of this temptation of criticism saying, “This is the last refinement in temptation, and multitudes fall before its power. The way to moral and spiritual health is to direct my criticisms upon myself. I must stand in the dock , and hear the grave indictment of my own soul. Unless I pass through the second chapter of Romans I can never enter the fifth and sixth, and still less forgiveness of the eighth. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” I pass into that warm, cheery light through the cold road of acknowledged guilt and sin.” (My Daily Meditation, John Henry Jowett)
We must all walk down this cold road of self reflection and admittance in order to enter the warm embrace of Gods forgiveness that leads to our own hearts changing. When this takes place we can then become that Christ like love towards others, not longing to pass judgment upon them but longing to bring them into the same fold of Christ’s love and escape judgment.
The second is to become a man of prayer for those in whom I pass my judgment.
Most of the people we easily or mainly pass judgment upon are our enemies. They are enemies usually because they have wronged us in some way or because they simply do not agree with us.
The definition of enemy is “a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.” (www.Dictionary.com,) Treating our enemies and those we judge and deem not worthy of grace or our time, is not the heart of Christ. The words of Christ in Luke 6 are always a hard pill to swallow when it really comes down to it.
Listen to the words of Christ in Luke 6:27-36.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
The only way we as Christians can truly put this to practice is to have our own hearts change. We are to “become merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36,NIV) In doing so we have a heart that longs to serve and pray for those we normally would pass judgment upon. This mercy then ties directly into us starting to realize “that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, NIV)
Not only lead us to repentance, but we embody this mercy to be a living example to draw others and partner with Christ in his kingdom work of bringing them into the fullness of Christ and repentance. - So my challenge to you this week is to be more aware of what we are saying and dwelling on about others. Then to redirect that awareness onto our selves, really examining our own flaws and areas we can use improvement.
The next challenge is to make a list of people that are your enemies or just out right annoy you. Then to sit down and to pray for them.