Does it ever happen when you are reading something that a phrase, a sentence, or even a paragraph just seems to jump off the page at you? It forces you to stop and reread the section. Maybe you don’t get much farther in your reading that day because you are so focused on that statement.
This happened to me the other day as I was reading a commentary on the New Testament book of Colossians. In that commentary the following paragraph was written:
"When was the last time you prayed for your pastor? Have you perhaps criticized him more recently than you have prayed for him? What a powerful aid for success a congregation has when more and more of its members pray, together with their pastor, that the Lord might enable him to grow in his understanding of the Word and in his ability to communicate that precious message from the pulpit and in the classroom, to young and old, to the troubled and the sick, to the dying and the bereaved."
Although this paragraph was specifically talking about praying for your pastor before you criticize, the author’s main point can have a much wider application. It is easy to criticize! It happens all the time! It happens between employers and employees, between teachers and students, between parents and children, even between friends and enemies.
But not all criticism is bad. There is a place for constructive criticism. Yet, before you offer constructive criticism, remember the encouragement this author wrote. Before you criticize someone, pray for them. Pray that they might grow in their understanding, their skills and abilities. Pray that they might receive your constructive criticism in the way that it was intended; not to tear them down, but rather to build them up and help them improve. Pray that you might have the wisdom to know how best to communicate your concerns to them.
As you do this, realize that this is not only a wise practice for dealing with people; it is also a God-pleasing practice. Remember what Jesus tells us in the gospel of Matthew, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that they may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).
May this become our regular practice! Before we criticize anyone for anything, let us first stop and pray for them!
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