Walking the Tightrope: Thinking Critically Without Being Critical

One of the challenges of ministering to others is dealing with what we know about them.  Fellow believers come to us with hurts and sorrows and we end up knowing more than we ever thought we would.  They entrust us with their lives and we become fellow burden bearers.

As a part of this ministry, we are called to be spiritually discerning as we think and pray about the information they have entrusted to us.  Often, God gives us insights from His Word and then by His Spirit, calls us to speak those truths into their lives.

If we are not on guard, our sinful nature will tempt us to use this information wrongly.

  • We may use it as a standard of comparison and let ourselves off the hook.
  • We may use it in a manner that wounds the one who has entrusted it to us.
  • We may become overwhelmed with their burdens and lose sight of the fact that God has the situation under control.
  • We may think that we are the solution to their problem and think of ourselves more highly than we should.

Even if we do not fall into one of these areas of sin, we will probably struggle with the temptation to be critical based on what we know.

As we face the challenge of thinking critically for the sake of the gospel, we must reject the temptation to adopt a critical spirit.

How then are we to think about what we know?

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  (Rom. 8:31-34)

These verses are very encouraging when we apply them to ourselves but quite convicting when God applies them to those we criticize. Take a moment to think of a person toward whom you have been critical.  Re-read the Romans passage placing their name in the place of every underlined word.

Suddenly it becomes clear that we may have enjoyed the grace that God extends to us but
not graciously extended it to others.

At this point, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions:

  • If God is for them, how can we be against them?
  • If God was willing to sacrifice His own dear Son for them, why can’t we die to ourselves for their sake?
  • If God has justified them who are we to condemn them?

Christ Jesus, the one who is intimately acquainted with every sin they have committed, is the only man who could condemn. Instead He intercedes for them. How can we do anything less?

In ministry, we know what we know so that we may intercede.

  1. List the names of those who you are tempted to criticize and add these names to your prayer list as those for whom you will faithfully intercede.
  2. You are still responsible to confront or encourage, but may now do so without the critical spirit.
  3. Yield yourself to God for the gentling of your spirit by His.

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. (I Thess. 2:7-8)