I recently heard from a woman who had just finished attending a Christian seminar on relationships, and living the Christian life. She told me that since the seminar, she had become more confrontational, and she could no longer ignore or tolerate what she considered unacceptable behavior from her husband. She said that she was hurt and discouraged, and she was tired of being mistreated in one form or another. She asked for prayer for wisdom to do what was right, because she didn't think she could take living with her husband one more day.
I prayed for this woman, and I shared with her how just a year or so before, I had read a book that was very similar to the seminar she had attended. I told her that after reading it, I was so upset with my husband that I almost caused us to get a divorce, even though we had been married for nearly 30 years! I've discovered that sometimes, methods to "improve" ourselves and our relationships can do more harm than good. It's up to us not to allow a program or book to stir up a hornet's nest in our household. I advised this lady to go to God, and to ask Him for HIS perspective in the matter. Then she could approach her husband, but only with an attitude that would enable her to "speak the truth in love." (Ephesians 4:15) I told her that if we remember that we ALL have an abundance of faults of our own, we will not be so likely to be so critical of others, especially those we love most.
The apostle Paul wrote: "Brethren, if any person is overtaken in misconduct or sin of any sort, you who are spiritual [who are responsive to and controlled by the Spirit] should set him right and restore and reinstate him, without any sense of superiority and with all gentleness, keeping an attentive eye on yourself, lest you should be tempted also." (Galatians 6:1 AMP) Notice that Paul's emphasis here is on restoration. Christians who are sensitive and obedient to the Holy Spirit's leading will not lash out at those who are disobedient or spiritually immature, but will gently instruct and correct them, so as to draw them closer to the Lord and His will for them. When we harshly criticize others, we demonstrate an attitude of haughtiness and superiority, traits that are highly offensive to God. The Message Bible translation of this verse says: "Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out." (Galatians 6:1 MSG) I like this version because it's a painful reminder of our own faults, and our own need for forgiveness on a daily basis.
Paul also tells us: "For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: 'Love others as you love yourself.' But if instead of showing love among yourselves you are always critical and catty, watch out! Beware of ruining each other." (Galatians 5:14-15 TLB) Our attitudes and actions have the power to restore or ruin. Anyone can bring ruin to a life or a relationship. But only followers of Christ are equipped with Holy Spirit power to bring healing and restoration. Yes, there are times when we need to deal firmly with the sin of those around us. But it should always be done in love--the kind of love that Paul describes here. Let's not be so hasty to toss our loved ones aside because they don't meet our expectations or standards. Instead, by God's grace and wisdom, let us seek to cherish and preserve those relationships that are precious in the Lord's sight.
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times that I've been too quick to criticize or judge others. Give me the spiritual discernment I need to confront and correct others according to Your will and timing. Give me a spirit of humility, so that I will never have a haughty or superior attitude. Thank You that by Your grace and power, I will bring restoration instead of ruin wherever I go!
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