When I was a young youth pastor in my church in New York, the elders asked me to fill the pulpit several times because our church did not have a senior pastor at that time. I agreed, a bit intimidated, but none-the-less determined to help the church anyway I could. My first Sunday to preach “in the big room” had come and I was getting a pretty good response from the church, except for one guy who was looking at me really oddly. I was still pretty new to the church and didn’t know him too well but it looked like I was offending him somehow. I continued to preach, but made it a point to bump into him after the service. I judged hi demeanor and was critical of his “inability” to get my sermon! I was a bit upset. Yet, I didn’t nee to go to him because he came to me. He bolted right up to me and shook my hand. While he was shaking my hand he said: “I have a confession. Once I saw that earring in your ear, I determined not to listen to a word you said. I thought: ‘what pastor wears an earring?!’” He then said: “But I got to listening to your sermon and it was really good. I am sorry I misjudged you…but you really shouldn’t wear an earring”. I was a bit shocked and unnerved, but glad he was able to hear the sermon despite his critical spirit in the beginning. I too was critical of him and allowed that to hinder my ability to love him as well. The critical spirit shows up a lot.
We live in a deeply critical society. You can’t turn on the news without hearing some anchor, or guest criticizing: the police, the President, the Pope, or anyone else for that matter. In the store at the checkout you see tabloids and one may even read: “How so an so got fat…don’t be like her!” Or, “Oh my Gosh, look at her hair!”. You open up a sports magazine and the lines: “Did he Juice!?” show up. It’s not just in TV, or tabloids or Sports Magazines either.
We judge and criticize others as well, as the man in my first church judged me. This critical society also leaks into the church, we are not immune; the Critical spirit is alive and well and it is laying waste to many believers and churches. This critical spirit causes deep wounding fights among believers. Instead of allowing God to sit on His seat as Judge, we often try to arrest the gavel from God’s hand
In the family of God, we should not be lay judgment on one another. We should pray for, encourage, admonish and challenge one another, but never should we be judging. So, the question we will be seeking to answer with today’s sermon is: How can we kill a critical spirit? I believe Romans 14:1-12 really deals in answering just that very question. Take some time to read the passage (linked below) so the rest of this blog can make sense in context of those verses.
We see here a church dealing with the issues of despising and judgment. They are all brothers and sisters in the family of God, yet they have differing, diverse views on certain things that are, as Douglas Moo calls them: “disputable matters”. These diverse opinions are causing people to be judged and rejected when this should not be the case. The critical spirit was alive and well and Paul was teaching them how to kill the critical spirit. To then kill the critical spirit he reminds them (and us) that:
We cannot reject, what God has already received (vs. 1-3)
In this passage, the word “faith” does not mean belief in Christ, but rather refers to one’s conviction about what their faith gives them the ability to do, or not do. We are called to welcome those who are family, despite whether their particular convictions line up with ours or not. So, Paul is talking to the church, the people of God, the one’s whom Christ has already sealed as His Children (as we discussed last week) and he is calling us to welcome all who are in the family. The problem is often times; we care more about our pet peeves than we do the people of God.
The church is seen by 87% of Millennial Outsiders as a lot or some judgmental. So, this is not simply a one-time, sometime problem by some churches or “those churches”, but I believe it leaks into all churches; that is why Paul addressed it with the weak and strong believers at Rome. We may not see it with meat or certain holy days as they did in Rome, but we certainly see it today as well. Disputable matters that cause condemnation and rejection may be: style of worship, earrings, Calvinism vs. Armenianism, dress, hair style, tattoos, too much money, too little money, what someone decides to watch on TV, smoking, drinking, recycling, all-natural, organic vs. processed and democrat vs. republican. The list could go on. Whatever these pet peeves may be the point is we are not to condemn or reject family who does not fit our mold in these disputable matters. There are matters of belief that cannot be contended- these Paul is not talking about. The issues that we generally cling to as our pet-peeves are cultural ones.
The weak in faith are not “lesser-than” Christians then those who are strong. They are just those who do not think their faith allows them certain freedoms the strong feel free to do. Paul noticed that the weak in faith were seeing the strong in faith living in their freedom and were condemning them, while the strong were despising the weak. The word ‘condemn’ in this passage means to pronounce doom over someone, or to wholly reject his or her salvation! These folks were essentially saying: you can’t be saved if you do this or don’t do that! They were bringing back the condemnation that Christ already freed them from as we discussed last blog)! To set up man-made restrictions on the basis of someone’s personal conviction is to go beyond the Scriptures.
Those man-made restrictions, many times cause strong divisions- maybe even church splits. Paul in verse one shows how disputing over opinions is simply a waste of time, rather than helpful to the advancement of the Kingdom of God. It’s just the trap the Enemy desires us to be in. His goal is to confuse us, so we are taken off task. If we are focusing on fighting inward, we won’t be fighting outward. People who are busy winning souls to Christ won’t have much time to investigate the lives of the saints!
God calls us to welcome our brothers, even if they have differing views because He has already welcomed them. We shouldn’t be wasting time on something God has already declared done.
That’s why Paul continues on, by not only stating that God welcomed those they may disagree with, but he challenges them pretty strongly in the next verse. Paul knew that to kill a critical spirit, you’ve got to be tough and he essentially says:
Check yo’self before you wreck yo’self (vs. 4, 8 & 12)
In essence, these weaker brothers had turned back to their Pharisaical roots and began to play God. Judging someone’s salvation based off of disputable issues was playing the Judge. We are not the Savior, we are those saved. The Lord is the one who makes us stand, not ourselves, or our works. Christ is our master, not our siblings in Christ. Paul also, in verse 8 challenges us to look inwardly to test our motivations for why we are doing, or not doing. What drives us? Is it guilt; is it the eyes of the weaker brothers who we want to please? Or are we living to the Lord? When we take time to look inward, the Spirit will share with us the work that needs to be done. I feel as though many of us point out others failures because we are trying to avoid dealing with our own.
We enjoy the “Super Christian” logo we’ve given ourselves too much. If we are supremely pious outwardly and find ourselves judging our family members, it’s a good indicator that we are actually sick on the inside and need Christ the way we are yelling at others that they need Him. Many of us find it easier to point the finger at someone else rather than work on the issues within themselves that cause them to so feverishly judge or condemn their brother. A great man once said: “It is much easier to maintain a religious face than to improve the Body”. Meaning it is easier to pretend you’ve got it all together than to do the hard work of introspection and work together to make a better Body of Christ.
Jesus Himself discussed this very issue in Matthew 7:1-5 where he states that with the same heart and vigor we judge others, He will judge us. He then shares one of my favorite parables, which I’ve discussed here before. That is the parable of the man trying to get the speck out of his brothers eye, all while having a log, or beam coming out of his own eye. The man in my old church and I were both trying to get the speck out of each other’s eye when we both had planks in the way!
Jesus with this hilarious illustration was pointing out our propensity to point out areas in others that needs work, while missing our own. Both the weak and the strong in this passage were ignoring the plank in their own eyes. Paul was trying to point out to them the plank in their eyes and to live for Christ. Once we can come to the place where we see our own heart, we will much easier give grace to those around us. In this arena, the conversation of love is profound. If we love someone, we are not going to willy-nilly condemn them and be glad to do it either! We hope to guide the people we love towards Holiness, not condemnation. If we disagree on something we should seek to still love that person. This by the way is countercultural. So, to kill the critical spirit, we must:
Seek to be known by our love (John 13:35)
Jesus stated that the world will know we are His by how we love one another. No wonder many are failing to come to church and to Christ. We as a whole as I stated before are not known for our love, but rather for our judgment. We are known more for what we are against than who we are for.
We should be able more than any other group in the world love each other through our disagreements. We should be a haven for the lost, but sadly we are not. When we squabble over non-essential things, we are losing a great opportunity to display the love of Christ. May the Spirit have mercy on us and rekindle our love for one another. As we have experienced His love for us, may we pour that right back out on one another. May we delight in the core truths of the faith and not allow the “disputable matters” to come between us.
May we seek to be salt and light, not Judge and Jury
Paul in this passage is not saying we must always agree. In fact, he is saying we will disagree. Yet, we are to disagree without being disagreeable. We are to allow the Spirit to kill our critical spirit so we can love our brothers and sisters despite our differences. In order to do this, we must remember: we cannot reject what God has already received, we must look inward, check our motivations and live for Christ, not others and finally that we allow ourselves to be so led by the Spirit that we seek to love each other above all else! May we do some searching this week and ask the Spirit what planks need to come out of our eyes, so we can be known by our love for one another once again.
 UnChristian pg. 28