People can be so critical at times. Often it seems no matter the amount of time and energy invested in a specific area, there will be someone who isn’t happy with the final results. As I began to consider my need to become less critical and more encouraging of others, I came across the following article written by Mandi Bundrick on August 08, 2011. I hope you will take the time to consider the following and evaluate your own attitude toward others.
“Benjamin Franklin once said: “I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of everybody.”
Franklin’s resolution was noble indeed, and one has to wonder whether he felt he ever truly lived up to those goals. Despite our best intentions, so often critical attitudes and assumptions sneak up on us without warning.
This week we’ll explore the truth about criticism from the book of James and the need for acceptance and edification from Romans.
The truth about criticism (James 4:11-12)
James reminded believers that rash criticisms of others are to be carefully avoided. Because every person has sinned (Romans 3:23), the right of judgment belongs to God alone. Critical attitudes prevent accurate perspective.
When we focus our attention on the mistakes and faults of others, we are unable to see our own mistakes and faults and cannot deal with them authentically. This negatively affects our relationship with God, others and our overall spiritual development (Matthew 7:3-5). Criticism can come in the form of gossip and, often, in the guise of prayer requests or concerns. With God’s help, we are able to see others and ourselves more clearly through God’s loving eyes. We must remember that judging is God’s prerogative and not ours.
The need for acceptance (Romans 14:1-4)
To some extent, all of us need and desire to be accepted by others. Acceptance or rejection, accurately or inaccurately perceived, affects the way we see ourselves.
In Romans 14:1-4, the Apostle Paul urged the Roman believers to accept believers weak in the faith. We must remember that regardless of the length of time we’ve known Christ, all of us started out as infants, unable to digest solid food. When engaging with believers who are weak in the faith, Paul encourages us to remain spiritually strong by not allowing certain circumstances to trouble or shake us.
But how can we truly keep from being troubled by conflict, which proves uncomfortable at best and painful at worst? In those situations where we are likely to feel defensive, Paul’s words remind us to love, respect and accept others with whom we have disagreements. We should acknowledge that everyone brings to the table their own preconceived ideas based on experience. We also must realize there still is much we do not know, including how other people see and experience the world.
Further, we are to accept others where they are, realizing they may just be starting out in their faith journey. Mature believers in the faith are called to be sensitive and patient with the weaker Christian who still struggles.
When Paul wrote “weak in faith” to describe some believers, he may have done so to refer to their lack of spiritual maturity or perhaps to crises of belief they experience at particularly difficult times in life. Paul’s instruction to accept the weak means to allow other people to be who they are and love them in that place, and to be sensitive so that we do not lead them into sin.
Being noncritical or nonjudgmental does not mean we should be tolerant of all lifestyles and actions. Believers must exercise judgment by discerning between right and wrong. However, wise discernment cannot occur in haste. In Romans 14:11, Paul reminds believers to resist squabbles over doubtful issues and disputable matters such as dietary preferences and observance of special days.
It is important for believers when we encounter matters that may seem of great importance in the moment to evaluate how much weight and attention they deserve according to what the Bible teaches. So which matters are negotiable and which are not? What is a personal preference, and what is a biblical absolute? If matters are non-negotiable, how do we go about communicating them with truth in love as we are called to do (Ephesians 4:15)?
The goal of edification (Romans 14:5-12, 19)
Paul acknowledged that there is room for disagreement among believers on non-essential matters. He reminds his audience that God alone is the judge and every believer is accountable to him. In verse 19, the apostle also urges the pursuit of believers of things that promote peace and build up the body of Christ.
Choosing your battles wisely means to distinguish between issues that are worth fighting for and those that are not. This leaves one free to invest time and energy in self-discipline, improvement and spiritual growth. If we work to straighten out our own lives, little time will be left to straighten out others lives. It also allows Christians to maintain church harmony by responding with constructive rather than destructive spirits.
Opinions, though valid, may not be beneficial because of the way they are expressed. We are to speak so that our words benefit those who hear them (Ephesians 4:29).
This means encouraging the strengths and spiritual gifts of others and working toward building them up instead of tearing them down.”
Questions for reflection
- What are some positive words that were spoken into your life that encouraged you
- What are some negative words that dampened your spirit?
- How does personal pride relate to our tendency to criticize others?
- How can we learn to choose our battles wisely and speak in genuine love and in such a way as to build others up?