Overcoming a Judgmental Spirit

Romans 14:1-12

Christians love to fight over our deeply-held beliefs. Unfortunately, sometimes we fight for things that don’t matter very much.

Once upon a time a man took a walk and came to a bridge. When he got to the middle of the bridge, he saw a man standing on the rail, obviously about to jump. The man was distraught so he said, “Don’t jump. I can help you.” “How can you help me?” asked the man on the rail. The first man replied with a question of his own: “Are you a Christian?” “Yes, I am.” “That’s wonderful. So am I. Are you Catholic or Protestant?” “I’m Protestant.” “That’s great. So am I. What sort of Protestant are you? Are you Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, or something else?” “I’m a lifetime Baptist,” said the man on the rail. “Praise the Lord,” came the reply. “So am I. Let me ask you this. Are you Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” “I’m Northern Baptist.” “Are you Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” “I’m Northern Conservative Baptist.” “Well, call Ripley’s. This is amazing. So am I. Are you Northern Conservative Baptist Fundamental or Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed?” The man on the rail thought for a moment and then declared, “My father raised me as a Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed.” “It’s a miracle,” said the first man. “Put ’er there, pal. So am I.” Then he asked, “Are you Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region or Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Plains Region?” The man on the rail said, “That’s easy. My family has always been Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region.” “This is a miracle of miracles. I don’t often meet a brother who shares my own heritage. One final question: Are you Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region Council of 1855 or Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region Council of 1872?” The man on the rail replied instantly, “Since the days of my great-grandfather, we have always been Northern Conservative Baptist Reformed Great Lakes Region Council of 1872.” This statement was followed by an awkward pause. Looking up, the first man cried out, “Die, heretic!” And he pushed him off the bridge.

We laugh at that story because in many ways it is so close to the truth. If two Christians agree on 79 out of 80 points, they will usually focus on the area where they disagree. And often, the smaller that final point, the more likely they are to argue about it. I don’t know what it is, maybe just human nature, that causes us to focus on the small things that don’t matter while ignoring the large areas where we agree 100%.

This is a sermon about the dangers of a judgmental spirit. Even though this problem exists outside the church, my focus in this message is inside the church. I want us to think about the tendency we all have to criticize people who don’t do or say things the way we think they ought to be said or done. I want us to think about the terrible things that can happen when we are too quick to offer personal judgments on believers who don’t meet our personal standards. And before we finish, I would like to offer some concrete suggestions on how we can overcome the impulse to criticize our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As we begin, let’s note that this problem is neither isolated nor new. Churches have struggled with this issue for 2,000 years. The New Testament makes it clear that the earliest Christians had difficulty accepting new or different people into their assemblies. When Paul wrote to the church at Rome, he devoted almost two full chapters to this difficult issue. Romans 14 teaches us an important truth about accepting other believers. I believe this is an important word for us to hear. As you read the remainder of this message, please ponder the message God has for you personally from this text.

Let’s begin with a brief look at the historical background of these verses.

I. Historical Background

Rome was the center of the world in Paul’s day. It was the capital of the empire and the seat of the Caesars. You’ve heard it said, “All roads lead to Rome.” In the first century that statement was certainly true. All roads did lead to Rome. That meant that the city had become a kind of melting pot where people from many different cultures mingled together. As ambassadors and envoys from the various provinces came to Rome, they settled in the city, creating a complex mix of races and ethnic groups. Add to that the foreign slaves and prisoners of war who lived in Rome. When the gospel came to Rome (not long after the Resurrection), it crossed many of those racial and ethnic lines. As a result, the church at Rome reflected the diverse makeup of the city itself.

That background helps us understand Paul’s words in Romans 14. He is writing to a growing church with a wide variety of people in the congregation. Human nature being what it is, it’s not surprising the various groups within the church had trouble getting along. As I read this chapter, it reveals conflict in the church in five different areas:

New Converts and Long-Time Believers,

Converted Jews and Converted Gentiles,

Vegetarians and Meat-Eaters,

Observers of Special Days and Those Who Observed No Special Days,

Total Abstainers and Wine-Drinkers.

We should not assume from this list that there were only two groups in the church with these characteristics. It may well have been that individual believers had differing convictions, i.e. a new believer who was a converted Gentile, a vegetarian, a Sabbath-keeper, and a wine-drinker. I believe you could find church members in Rome who didn’t fit into just one or two neat categories. Evidently these believers had difficulty getting along. The meat-eaters didn’t trust the vegetarians and the vegetarians thought the meat-eaters were compromisers. The converted Jews kept kosher, but the converted Gentiles thought that was a waste of time. The wine-drinkers felt that drinking wine was permissible so long as you didn’t get drunk. The total abstainers thought that nothing more than a convenient excuse for drinking alcohol.

In short, the church at Rome was anything but one big happy family. It was big, it was a family, but it was far from happy. Paul understood the conflict. After all, he had been raised in the womb of Orthodox Judaism. He knew all about keeping kosher, following the strict dietary laws, and living under the law. No doubt he had struggled with many of these issues in the years following his conversion to Christ. Now he writes to help others who were wrestling with these same issues.

Romans 14:1-12 contains three basic exhortations:

A. Accept one another—God has accepted you! 1-4

The first verse gives us the theme of the entire chapter: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” The word accept” means to open your heart and your home to other people. “Disputable matters” are things like eating meat, drinking wine, and keeping special days. These matters—while important—should not stand in the way of our relationship with other believers. To “pass judgment” means to come to a negative conclusion about other Christians on the basis of their outward behavior in disputable areas. We could paraphrase verse 1 this way: “Make friends with everyone in the church without stopping to worry about whether they agree with you on everything or not.”

Consider this situation. It’s time for a birthday party and you’re wondering what to serve. Maybe your idea is to cook some rib-eye steaks, lobster tail, prepare a nice casserole, and perhaps have some homemade rolls, baked potatoes and a nice dessert. That sounds good to me. Or maybe you prefer to buy some premium tofu, put it in a bowl, pour gravy on it (or whatever it is you do to tofu), and serve it with some bean sprouts and soy milk. For dessert you decide to take some bean curd and dip it into chocolate. That’s not exactly my preference, but it doesn’t matter at all. Here is Paul’s point: If you want to cook some steaks, cook some steaks. If you want to have tofu and chocolate-covered bean curd, have at it. It doesn’t matter to God! He’s not up in heaven checking your menu to see if it passes muster. Eat whatever you like. And don’t feel that you need to explain yourself to anyone else.

The danger is that the meat-eaters will look down on the vegetarians and the vegetarians will condemn the meat-eaters. But we must not fall into that trap. The last phrase of verse 3 explains why we are to accept those whose lifestyle may be quite different from ours: “For God has accepted him.” God’s grace has nothing to do with eating meat, drinking wine, or keeping special days. But neither does it extend only to vegetarians, total abstainers or those who observe no days at all. Since God accepts people solely on the basis of their faith in Jesus Christ, so should we. Or to put it another way, who are we to reject the person whom God has accepted? If God has accepted him, how can we reject him?

B. Have your own convictions—Jesus is your Lord 5-9

Verse 5 says it plainly: “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” To be fully convinced means that after looking at all the evidence and considering the various views on a given issue, you have come to a settled conclusion in your own mind. It assumes an honest investigation coupled with an open mind.

Notice how many times Paul mentioned the Lord Jesus Christ in these verses: “He who regards one day as special, does it to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord … He who abstains does so to the Lord … If we live , we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” Seven times in these verses Paul relates our lifestyle choices directly to our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we are fully surrendered to his lordship in our lives, then we are free to make up our own minds in these disputable areas.

Do you want to eat meat? Eat it for Jesus is your Lord. Do you prefer to be a vegetarian? Have your bean sprouts and give thanks to God. Are you a total abstainer? If so, rejoice that you know Jesus Christ. Do you drink wine with your dinner? Give thanks to God that Jesus is your Lord.

If Jesus is your Lord, you can make your own decisions, knowing that he alone will be your judge.

Note that in this section Paul mentions a particular area of contention. One group at Rome observed certain days as holy (perhaps the Sabbath or possibly the various Jewish feast days), while another group said that all days were alike because every day belongs to the Lord. That has many practical ramifications. If you want to go to church on Tuesday night, go ahead. Nothing wrong with that. But don’t judge those who prefer to go to church on Thursday morning. When I was growing up, there was no flexibility in this regard. We “knew” that all Christians went to church three times a week—Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. And Sunday morning was always the same—Sunday School at 9:45 a.m. and Morning Worship at 11:00 a.m. We never heard about having multiple worship services. Sunday evening was Training Union at 6:00 p.m. and Evening Worship at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday night was a supper followed by Prayer Meeting at 7:00 p.m. None of this new-fangled having classes on Wednesday night. That was just the way we did it, year after year. But now things have changed greatly and churches have services and programs at every possible hour.

Another way to look at this is to consider that Christmas is coming in just a few weeks. That means we will decorate the sanctuary and the hallways with garlands and with beautiful wreaths. We’ll have a Christmas concert with our orchestra and choir in three performances. Plus a Christmas caroling outreach plus two Christmas Eve services. Plus we’ll start singing Christmas carols soon after Thanksgiving. I’m very happy about that because Christmas is always a favorite time of the year for me. But consider these facts: Nowhere in the New Testament are we told to celebrate the birth of Christ with a special season of the year. Nowhere are we told to have concerts and Christmas Eve services. For that matter, we don’t even know for certain the precise day of Christ’s birth. Scholars even argue about the exact year. And the word “Christmas” isn’t found anywhere in the Bible. There is no command to sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” or “Angels We Have Heard on High” or “Away in the Manger.” No command to recreate the manger scene. And there is absolutely nothing that tells us to do anything on Christmas Eve. Most of what we do stems from long-held (and deeply-felt) tradition handed down across many generations. It is a noble and worthy tradition that goes far back in church history but it doesn’t come directly from the New Testament.

My point is, we don’t have to have Christmas this year. We could just cancel the whole thing. I am not suggesting that we could stop believing in the incarnation or the virgin birth because those things are non-negotiable. But we aren’t compelled by the Bible to do all the things we’re going to do in just a few weeks. Which means that if a church somewhere decided not to observe Christmas in any particular way, that church would not be sinning. And they should not be despised for that choice any more than we should be judged because we choose to make a great emphasis in celebrating the birth of Christ each year. There is room in the body of Christ for significant differences in the way we approach the traditions of our faith.

C. Don’t judge others—We will each answer to God 10-12

Paul asks two pointed questions in verse 10: “Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?” To “judge” in this context means not simply to evaluate his lifestyle. The word implies that you come to a negative conclusion about the way he lives. “Judging” in this context soon leads to “looking down” on other believers—i.e. believing that you are better or superior to others because A) You do things they don’t do or B) You don’t do things they routinely do. Either way, you end up seeing yourself as just a little bit better than your brothers in Christ. Three different times Paul reminds the Romans that each of them will stand individually before God. No one will answer for anyone else. God will not judge you for how someone else lives. When you stand before the Lord, he won’t quiz you about what Mr. Jones did or how Susie Johnson lived. You’ll answer for yourself and for no one else.

If God will judge your friends, why should you get involved? He knows them better than you do, he loves them more than you do, and he reads the thoughts and intents of the heart, which you can’t read at all.

Furthermore, if we all spent more time worrying about ourselves, we’d have very little time left to worry about other people.

From Rome to Oak Park

I believe the message of Romans 14 is vitally important because Calvary is becoming like the church at Rome. With each passing year we become more and more of a melting pot. A generation ago nearly everyone who attended this church lived in Oak Park or one of the nearby suburbs. Today hundreds of people drive long distances to attend our services on Sunday. Our location on Lake Street has combined with our increased visibility to make us a regional church for the western suburbs. That means we’ve become a very diverse congregation. On any given Sunday, we’ll have people worship with us who come from over 50 different religious backgrounds. You may have a Baptist to your left, a Catholic to your right, an Episcopal one row in front of you and a Lutheran sitting behind you. Four rows up you may find a Charismatic lifting his hands in praise to the Lord. Sitting next to him may be someone from a Brethren assembly reading his Bible to make sure it’s okay. Across the sanctuary you may spot a Presbyterian bowed in prayer and a stray Unitarian wondering how he ended up in our church! You could have a Methodist husband, a Congregational wife, a Salvation Army sister and a Dutch Reformed uncle. It could happen!

We’re not all from the same background in any sense. Calvary covers a broad spectrum of denominations, ages, races and ethnic backgrounds. We come to this place on Sunday morning joined by one united purpose—to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the great unifying factor. Without him we’d never get a group like this to stay together. Because we are an increasingly-diverse congregation ministering in an increasingly-diverse community, we need to heed Paul’s words and put them into practice. Romans 14 is not for some other church. It’s for Calvary Memorial Church today.

II. Distinctions and Clarifications

With that as background, let me share five important principles related to the teaching of this passage.

A. Christians Often Disagree With Each Other.

This statement always comes as a surprise to new believers, but those of us who’ve been around for a while accept it as a given. Sometimes new Christians come into the church thinking that at last they’ve found paradise on earth, where everyone always agrees with everyone else and we’re all happy together all the time. It doesn’t take long for that balloon to burst. We’re just normal people with a wide range of opinions joined by our common allegiance to Jesus Christ.

Even though Calvary is a very good church filled with wonderful people, we disagree about lots of things. Here’s a short (and very incomplete) list of some things that conservative evangelicals argue about:



Movies

Interracial Marriage

Hairstyles

Seeker Services

Politics

Smoking

Ecumenical Movement

Borrowing Money

Fishing on Sunday

Divorce & Remarriage

Women Ushers

Pipe Organs

Rush Limbaugh

Men Wearing Beards

Drinking Wine

Women Wearing Jewelry

Raising Children

Faith-Promise Giving

Dating Standards

Pledging

Liberal Churches

Christian Psychology

Mode of Baptism

Worship Style

Timing of the Rapture

School Choice

Age of the Earth

Birth Control

About this list, two observations can be made: 1) Some things that appear “silly” to you seem very serious to other Christians, and 2) If we asked ten Christians to divide this list into “silly” and “serious” categories, we would get many different answers.

B. Disagreement is Not Always Wrong or Sinful.

Many of us have a hard time with this point especially when we feel passionately about some secondary issue. If you have strong feelings about men wearing beards or about Rush Limbaugh, you’ll have a hard time accepting those who either disagree with you or simply don’t care about “your” issue one way or the other.

Disagreement often reflects cultural differences more than biblical principles. Your particular set of standards may tell more about your upbringing than about what God approves or disapproves. Sometimes we disagree simply because of our differing temperaments or because of the spiritual gifts God has given us. In any case, we ought not to automatically assume the worst about people who disagree with us.

C. We Must Distinguish Between Primary & Secondary Issues.

I would define a primary issue as one that deals with a central doctrine of the Christian faith. This category includes the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Jesus Christ, including the virgin birth, the miracles, his death and bodily resurrection, his ascension into heaven, and the reality of the personal, visible, bodily return of Christ to the earth. Other primary issues involve salvation by grace through faith, the doctrine of the Trinity, the importance of the church as the body of Christ, the truth of eternal life with Christ, the resurrection from the dead, and the reality of heaven and hell. And there are other foundational doctrines dealing with basic sexual morality that must be upheld. These things are primary because they describe central, defining truths of the Christian faith. To deny these things is to put yourself outside the realm of true Christianity.

When we discuss these issues, there can be no compromise. Ultimately, you either believe in the virgin birth or you don’t. If you don’t, you have denied a clear teaching of the New Testament, which involves your whole view of the Bible as God’s Word and ultimately calls into question your belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Primary truths must be insisted upon, even if others find us ungracious or intolerant in doing so. While our manner must always be kind, our convictions must be rock-solid. In the end, there can be no Christian fellowship with those who deny these things. In the famous words of Edward John Carnell, “It is better to divide over truth than to unite around error.”

To Fish or Not to Fish

Having said that, it must be admitted that most of our debates have nothing to do with primary issues. By definition, evangelical Christians already believe these things. Our debates generally center on secondary issues, which I would define as issues about which the Bible does not clearly speak. For instance, the Bible says nothing about fishing on Sunday. There is simply no verse that addresses that particular issue. Whatever you believe about that will have to be decided by A) inferences drawn from biblical principles or B) your personal preference or C) a combination of A) and B). The same is true for home schooling. While the Bible has much to say about education in general, and while it clearly lays the burden of teaching children upon the parents, it doesn’t tell us precisely how that responsibility must be discharged. Is it wrong to send children to a Christian school? What about a public school? Since there were no first-century equivalents of either public schools or Christian schools, we aren’t sure how to answer those questions.

Or take the hot issue of contemporary versus traditional worship. The New Testament gives us a few general guidelines for worship, but they are quite sketchy and general. If Paul were alive today, would he prefer Fanny Crosby over Point of Grace or would he embrace Steven Curtis Chapman over P. P. Bliss? I know of no sure way to answer that question. Since nearly the entire corpus of Christian hymnody had yet to be written in A.D. 50, we may assume that even if they could understand the words, the Jerusalem Christians would be mystified by all forms of Christian worship today.

The same analysis may be made for each debatable item on the list. Either the Bible says nothing at all or what it says is difficult to properly interpret. In such cases, we are free to have our own convictions, but we must hold them lightly lest we blur the line between primary and secondary issues and end up elevating fishing on Sunday to a level equal with the resurrection of Jesus.

D. Accepting Others Requires Humility Above All Other Virtues.

I define humility as understanding that God is God and you are not. Truly humble people are free from the burden of having to play God for other people. Once you decide that you can let God be God, then you can also relax and let him deal with other Christians regarding these secondary issues. That doesn’t mean you can’t discuss these matters openly. Open discussion is a mark of a healthy relationship. Let the meat-eaters and vegetarians challenge each other’s position—but only if they can do it in love and with deep respect. Humility doesn’t mean no discussion; it does mean no animosity, no name-calling, no unfair accusations.

Over the years I’ve learned two things from careful observation:

1. God blesses people I disagree with.

2. God sometimes blesses people I wouldn’t bless if I were God.

Sometimes I’m frustrated by those facts, especially when I see God blessing someone who seems to be profoundly wrong in some area. But humility forces me to admit that if God is God, he is free to bless anyone he chooses, and he doesn’t have to ask my permission before doing it.

A friend who led a Christian ministry told me that he was having trouble with people in his organization who seemed to delight in offering negative comments on everything and everybody. He solved it by instituting this simple rule: If it doesn’t apply to you personally, feel free to have no opinion about it. I have found this to be a liberating principle that has helped me a number of times over the years. Sometimes we simply have too many opinions on too many topics. Many times I have helped myself by saying, “I feel free to have no opinion about that.” And I sleep well at night when I follow that rule.

E. If We Truly Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, We Can Let Him Deal With Those Who Disagree With Us.

This is the logical conclusion of everything I have said thus far. Paul says, “Don’t judge another believer.” Why? Because God will judge him for you. If your friend who eats meat has made a bad choice, God can show him better than you can. If he smokes, God can convict him or his doctor can convince him. If he has some strange view of the rapture, God can deal with him if he needs to be dealt with. Don’t get in God’s way. Let him deal with people who disagree with you. And in the meantime, don’t forget to treat them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

III. Practical Ways to Apply This Message

Let’s wrap up this message with seven brief steps of application. I want to make this very practical so you can use it this week when you are dealing with someone who sees life differently than you do.

A. Make Up Your Own Mind

Why is this so important? Because only the confident can truly accept others. If your “issue” is Christian schools, then study that issue until you feel very confident of your position. (That doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later, but it does mean that you come to a place where you don’t agonize over it day and night.) Once you are confident about Christian schools, you won’t feel the need to attack people who believe in public schools nor will you feel an inordinate need to defend yourself when others attack you.

If you know what you believe, it’s easy to talk amiably with those who hold differing points of view. Anger is often a mark that a person has adopted a position without thinking it through carefully. If you constantly find yourself getting angry about a secondary matter, ask yourself if you really believe what you say you believe. You won’t easily lose your temper when you have truly made up your own mind.

B. Give Others the Right to do the Same.

If you have the right to your opinion, your friend has the right to hers. If you can decide to listen to Rush Limbaugh, she can choose not to. She can also disagree with your reasons and even tell you so, if she cares to. Christian charity requires that we give others the same right of self-determination that we claim for ourselves. As someone has said, we already have one pope in Rome. We don’t need any evangelical popes trying to micro-manage the affairs of other people.

C. Refuse to Criticize Those Who See Things Differently.

A while back a man came up to me in the lobby after one of the morning services. I won’t tell you which one because it doesn’t matter. The man proceeded to talk about the other worship service—the one he doesn’t attend. For some reason, he had attended the “other” service one Sunday and had not liked what he had seen. The music was too_________. (You fill in the blank.) He didn’t care for the _______________. The words seemed to be ___________ and _______________. He felt it wasn’t true worship at all. Now, it doesn’t matter whether his comments apply to the contemporary or the traditional. What mattered was his attitude. I finally interrupted him, held up my hands in a “T” and said, “Time out. We don’t talk that way around here. And I refuse to listen to comments like that.” We don’t expect everyone to like everything about both worship services. But we do expect everyone at Calvary to refrain from speaking harshly or unfairly about either worship service. No matter what anyone says, we are one church, one body, and one family of believers. We just happen to have two different styles of worship. There’s no room for cheap-shot criticism in our church. None whatsoever.

D. Enlarge Your Circle of Friends.

By that I mean, make sure that you have some friends who disagree with you about some things. If you are a vegetarian and all your friends are vegetarians, how stunted and small is your vision of the Christian life. The same is true for faith-promise giving or seeker services. It’s good to have a few friends who truly like you but don’t see eye-to-eye with you on every issue. After all, if two people agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary.

If you go to the contemporary service, good! But make sure you have some traditional worship friends. And if you come to the traditional worship service, don’t forget about the hundreds of people who worship in our contemporary services each week.



E. Focus on Things that Unite Us, Not on Things that Divide Us.

This ought to go without saying, but I need to emphasize it because there is something in human nature that seems to divide us into little groups. The great unifying factor for the people of God is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has broken down the wall that separated us from God and from one another. In him we are joined together in the body of Christ. We might state the principle this way: Everyone who belongs to Jesus belongs to me. Read the great list in Ephesians 4 of the things that unite us: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:4-6). These are the “primary issues” of the Christian life. These are the things that have always been believed by all Christians everywhere. They unite the body of Christ across the generations and across geographic, political, racial and national boundaries.

Focus on these things! They matter far more than wine-drinking or wearing your hair a certain way. When Christian schooling is weighed against the standard of “one Lord,” it comes in a distant second. Remember the words of St. Augustine: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.”

F. Live So That No One Can Criticize Your Decisions.

That means living a truly Christian life, one marked by gracious humility, kindness, compassion, love for others, honesty, integrity, and hope amid life’s difficulties. If these things are present in your life, then it won’t matter whether or not you go fishing on Sunday. And if those things aren’t present in your life, then fishing or not fishing won’t matter anyway.

Live so that those who disagree with you look up to you as a model worth following.

G. Get Your Own House in Order So That You Have Nothing to Fear When You Stand Before God!

Our text closes with a heavy stress on this principle. While it is true that everyone else will stand before God, it’s also true that you will stand before God. Live in such a way that you have nothing to fear in that awesome day.

As I come to the end of this message, I’d like to leave you with one very practical word of application. Pay close attention to what I’m going to say because you’ll need it before too long, probably before this day is over. The next time you are you tempted to criticize someone else, especially someone close to you—a friend, a family member, a co-worker, a colleague, a church member—before you utter a word, stop and say a prayer for that person. Before you criticize, pray for them. Pray first. Ask God to bless that person. Pray that God will guide them. Yield your own heart to the Lord.

Pray before you say anything. If you pray first, you may end up saying nothing at all. As someone has said, “Miss no opportunity to keep your mouth shut.” Or if you do say something, what you say will likely be changed because you prayed first. If we prayed more, we would talk less, and our words would have greater impact.

Lord Jesus, deliver us from a judgmental spirit. Teach us to pray before we speak. Give us a heart like yours—filled with grace and truth. Amen.

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