Rejoice, Not Criticize

When is the last time you honestly didn’t care what other people thought? It’s something that I see a lot in my kids, my friends and even some people I don’t know very well. I see it especially when I look in the mirror. because looking acceptable means making a good impression. I am very critical of myself and how I look even though I have no idea how other people see me. I know how I see me.

So, I’m actually not going to write about that, because we are told that we must make ourselves presentable, and not to let ourselves go, but take care of our bodies. So, in essence, how I see myself means a lot to how I make an impression on God. Here’s what’s going on in my head, though…

We care about what other people think, and as Christians, we either make a bold statement claiming our faith or we hide behind a facade in denial so others won’t persecute us. I believe that both strategies are out of line with what Jesus did and told us to do. He told us to proclaim the good news not shove down everyone’s throats our claims to Christianity. Those are two different things but I see Christians all over social media with their posts claiming how they believe in Jesus Christ. And yet it’s those same Christians who are criticizing other people (Christians or not) about how they live and who they associate with. These are the ones who can’t have a relationship with the gay man who moved into the neighborhood. They immediately point fingers at someone in a violent situation before understanding all of the details (and even then, insist on pointing fingers).

Listen to what Paul says:  “So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on! ….And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out.”(Philippians 1:18-19)

Isn’t it ironic? Instead of criticizing, Paul is rejoicing that whatever others are saying, whether it’s out of malice or love, people are hearing Jesus’ name. I know there are many people out there who are saying that most Christians are sending the “wrong message” and they probably have a point. I know I have thought that same thing for a long time, but my words won’t change another person’s actions.  It’s up to each of us as individuals to behave the way we believe and rejoice each time we hear Jesus’ name in public.

We proclaim His good news with our love for others and give Him all the credit for any successes we have. It’s simple really. We don’t have to stand at the street corner yelling for people to repent. After all, did your mom telling you to clean your room make you want to do it? Of course not. But the pleasant results of cleaning your room made a lasting impression and as you grew into adulthood, it hopefully helped you stay motivated to keep it clean rather than live in filth and have to deep clean periodically because of health hazards. That’s how the Gospel should work. We live it, others see it and then they want it for themselves because nothing else can bring the peace that we crave the way an everlasting relationship with our Creator can. In the meantime, I will rejoice and not criticize whenever I hear someone talking about Jesus because I know that someone out there who hasn’t heard it before is not hearing it for the first time. It’s up to me to live out my faith.

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