Keeping opinions under the restraining power of the Holy Spirit may be one of the greatest gifts we can give another. But even if we should feel compelled in a spiritual matter to speak-up, we must hold tightly to the directions given in the scriptures of how to accomplish this, lest the devil entices us down that lonely road of division: “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15 NKJ). Yes, meekness and fear. Whatever our opinion, meekness and fear (respect) will give proper place as our words fall on the ears of another. Without such grace it will quickly move into the second stage of division which is critiquing.
The widening divide
Critiquing causes the crack to divide even further. Once our opinions start flowing it’s only a matter of time before critique follows. If there is a hair out of place, it’s noticed; if there is a fault to be found, it’s found. A cup that was once seen as half full is now seen as half empty and even dispensable. If we could only see the damage with our spiritual eyes that our critical remarks make, we’d be astonished. Who can withstand the scrutiny of the critical eye? All who encounter it are wounded by it. This is Satan’s whole plan; criticism is character bashing plain and simple. In our criticism we are declaring one of God’s children unfit to others. So where is this gap in division heading next, potentially? Straight to harsh judgment.
The final collapse
Harsh judgment is the final split of division that once started off as a small crack of opinion, quickly widening to the gap of critiquing, and when fully grown, results in a collapse to harsh judgment. Harsh judgment is a negative verdict that declares a person guilty. There are many who stand tried, condemned and held prisoner by the simple and often hasty judgments of others. The Bible specifically defines this kind of judgment as a stumbling block: “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister” (Romans 14:13 NKJ) The word obstacle (in the original language of the scripture) has the meaning of being a hurtful obstruction in the way, which if one strikes his foot against causes a stumble or fall. This is what it feels like to be judged. It’s a throwing off balance that causes us or others to fall.
What we believe
An even clearer way to picture this might be by taking a look at the destruction in our own lives caused by our rash and unsubstantiated judgments of ourselves. We often embrace the lies Satan tells us that we are losers as he is quick to remind us daily of all our faults. It is a defective kind of judgment on ourselves that is condemning and immobilizing; holding us hostage.
We are told in Scripture that we are greatly loved by Christ. We have been intricately designed and fashioned by Him, and He loves that we are different. If this is true for us, then it is true for others as well, and if we want people to see us the way the Lord sees us and not find fault with us, why would we want to do that to anyone else? The scriptures victoriously declare, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). If you are on the receiving end of harsh judgment, remember that God loves you dearly and does not embrace the judgement that has been placed on you by another. In fact that judgement, whatever it is, has fallen squarely on Him. He has born it at the cross.
In the same way in our relation to others, let us not give Satan a foothold any longer. It’s easy to spot the signs when Satan is planting division in our hearts. It starts with strong opinions that lead to a critical spirit. When an opinion we hold starts to arise that is different from our family member, neighbor or friend, let us call on the Lord for mercy. May our words not only be restrained by the Spirit, but be laced with grace. May we resolve to walk meekly (with respect for others) before our God.
Paula Masters is the author of “Exceptional Bloom: Coming Alive After Fifty” and the founder of True Source Ministries, an online ministry to hurting women, found at tsmwomen.org. She stays connected with her readers on her “Over Fifty And Fabulous” facebook page and online at OverFiftyandFab.com.