Wednesday: A Great Obstacle for Unity
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How can Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1-5 help us to avoid divisions and conflicts in the church?

James 3:5-6 Wildfire in California from Wikimedia Commons

James 3:5-6
Wildfire in California from Wikimedia Commons

It is much easier to see the faults in others than to see our own. To criticize gives a false sense of superiority, because the critic compares himself with other human beings who seem to be worse than he is. Our aim, however, is not to compare ourselves with others but with Jesus.

How many problems could we avoid if we would all obey the divine command: You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people (Lev. 19:16, NKJV). It is painfully true that a whisperer separates the best of friends (Prov. 16:28, NKJV).

On the other hand, there are circumstances when it is necessary to speak about another person. Before we do that, however, we should ask ourselves three questions:

  1. Is what I am about to say true? You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Exod. 20:16, NKJV). Sometimes we may report something as a fact while it is actually an assumption or a guess. Besides, we may unconsciously add our own subjective assessment, running the risk of judging erroneously the intentions of other people.
  2. Is what I am about to say edifying? Will it be helpful for those who hear it? Paul admonishes us to speak only what is good for necessary edification (Eph. 4:29, NKJV). If something were true but not edifying, wouldn’t it be better not to say it?
  3. Is it possible to say it in a loving way? The way we say something is as important as what we say (see Prov. 25:11). If it is true and edifying, we have to be sure that we can say it in a way that it will not offend other people.

James compares the tongue with a little fire that kindles a great forest (James 3:5-6). If we hear gossip, we shouldn’t add more wood to the fire, because where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases (Prov. 26:20, NKJV). Gossip requires a chain of transmitters to be alive. We can stop it by simply refusing to hear it; or, if we have already heard it, avoid repeating it. Instead of gossiping, thus creating mischief, let us tell of the matchless power of Christ, and speak of His glory. — Ellen G. White, The Upward Look, p. 306.

There’s no doubt about it: criticism of others can make us feel better about ourselves. What happens, however, when we compare ourselves with Jesus?

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Wednesday: A Great Obstacle for Unity — 21 Comments

  1. Its hard to differentiate or recognise between gossip and conversation sometimes. Gossip destroys and conversation is at most edifying. In today's world the flurry of information is contaminated with either and our cognitive processes are defenseless to make unconscious decisions. Confession and pray is the emphasis of faith because the roaring lion that seeks to claim our soul. We are to seek the Holy Spirits daily guidance to detect where are about to or have faltered. We can do nothing but by Him. intercessory prayer by churches has a greater significance then what is emphasised and the aspect of overcoming such temptations is no exception. If Lucifer could cause havoc in heaven we are defenseless without unification in worship and spirit. It is good for worshippers to dwell in unity, it is like the oil that soaked the High Priest that entered the Most Holy where God dwells. God Bless.

    Like(14)
    • I agree with your comment and thank you for taking the time to write it however; I feel if people would be more open to constructive criticism, and worshipers were aware of how to perform this type of interaction, I feel we would not only stop this form of spiritual attack on God's people,[knowingly or unknowingly] we would protect victims of devil when he uses people to wound and destroy the church from inside as well as outside of the church.

      Like(2)
  2. A culture of praise for people, fed by the doctrine of self-esteem, is also something that needs attention.

    By excessive praise the church creates larger than life personalities, who ascend to such heights they transition from a sense of service to an attitude of ownership. Their control and domination then becomes a strain upon the congregation. At the same time others who feel a need for praise are set up to feel cheated when they are not recognized for their contributions; and discontent grows.

    Most of us cannot properly handle praise and do not realize this. We do none a favor by heaping praise on them. Instead we create a challenge for them to overcome.

    Scriptures barely give any praise to men, but constantly direct glory to God. It becomes us to learn to live without recognition, but to draw on the motivation of love, which needs no cheerleader. Encouragement is good, but this cannot be the prime mover. The Holy Spirit is the one who stirs in the heart a genuine desire to serve.

    In commending those who were faithful to serve the least, the King in Jesus' parable seems to surprise them because they were not thinking about their good works, but the need which called their attention (Matthew 25:37-39). They did not feel like they deserved anything, but practiced loving service with contentment (1 Timothy 6:5-7). If we think more about pleasing God and the needs of mankind and dwell less on what we have already done there will be less yearning for recognition and still less displeasure when there is no recognition.

    The faithful need not prop up self with the flowery words of their brethren. The affirmation which means most to the redeemed is the approval of God and a sense that He is pleased.

    With the Holy Spirit obstacles may be overcome.

    Like(15)
  3. I understand where you are coming from Hugh, and have seen the issue of charismatic leadership challenge the church. There is however a need to show appreciation for the work that many folk put into church life in so many little ways. The deaconess that washes the towels after ordinances; the young person who takes the prayer in Sabbath School for the first time; the person who looks after the floral decorations and so on. They do not want heaps of praise, but a simple thank you and a word of appreciation goes a long way to helping them want to continue to contribute.

    In too many of our congregations, we expect the routine tasks to be done and complain when they are not. I worked on visuals in a large church for many years and did not expect to be thanked or even have my name published in the church bulletin. The fact that, in passing, so many people showed appreciation in just a word or two, a smile, an offer to carry my equipment back to the car so that they could have a conversation with me was ample reward.

    It is not a sin to say thank you. Sadly, we sometimes forget that God expects us to say thank you to others for him

    Like(28)
    • Maurice, I appreciate your comments. This month, our church had an annual deacon day and many many people were personally named that day. My heart was heavy because, none of those people understood the purpose of having such a day was to edify the Most High only, and the day was commercialized to a point where people felt silted for not having their names, groups, or ministries mentioned. I felt the individualization in that arena should have been generalized because some people, groups or ministries were over praised and others were not mentioned at all and they did many necessary things. All in all the day was blessed inspite of the imperfections of our churchs' humanity.

      Like(1)
  4. when a person does a good thing praise them,use their testimony to lift others but when a person does a bad thing be sad for them ,go to god and pray for them-don't talk about it wth other people.....that way you will avoid gossip.gossip wastes time and is destructive

    Like(11)
  5. I do agree with Hugh. I see a culture in our church where the so called accomplished ( educationally, financially, professionally) are given so much recognition. It seems like if you don't have Dr. before your name then you don't amount to much. I see others who might not be as educated but committed to the work of The Lord being treated as if they hardly exist. While I believe that persons should be recognized I believe in impartiality. Everyone is to be made to feel that he/she is fulfilling a purpose. When that happens the way is paved for unity in the church.

    Like(3)
    • Miriam, I have a "Dr" in front of my name and I can tell you that from where I stand, church can be a lonely place at times too - if I let it. Fortunately for me, if I ever get big-headed about my "Dr", my wife lets me know that she did most of the work for it - and she is right! And my Mum, who will turn 100 this year, still likes to remind me that she taught me most of what I know in the first 5 years of my life - and she did not get past primary school!

      My son, who also has a "Dr" in front of his name, left the church because he felt that he was lonely. Not everyone who is educated is made to feel wanted in the church.

      We need to remind ourselves that we need to cross the barriers of education, race, color, gender when we are living in Christ to support and appreciate one another.

      Like(3)
      • Maurice,
        Thanks. Almost everyone at some point says thanks (appreciation) or is the beneficiary of thanks (appreciation). The self-esteem movement would have us believe that our real obstacle is lack of appreciation. Any lack of appreciation or encouragement which exists is not nearly as dangerous as the praise of men which exists.

        In the name of balance (which hardly any dispute) we may divert attention from the much greater problem, and treat the wound as if it were not serious (Jeremiah 6:14 NIV).

        Contrary to the self-forgetfulness displayed by Christ, the strong desire for appreciation is one indication that self remains alive. We do not understand our own heart and may even proceed to justify our own wrong course of action because others did not show appreciation.

        Misplaced praise is not only an obstacle to unity, but may also affect the recipient’s salvation, depending on how it is handled. It is the prophetic word, not the popular sentiment that the church needs.

        A word from the messenger of the Lord:

        “The word of God forbids the praising and glorifying of men, therefore Christians cannot glory in men; but the mere professor of religion feels grieved over this lack of human appreciation, and believing that he has wonderful qualifications that his Christian brethren do not discern or rightly estimate, he presses a little closer to the world, loves their deceptive flattery, and thinking he is worthy of being extolled, he drinks more deeply of the turbid streams of the valley, until he no longer thirsts for the snow waters of Lebanon.” (RH December 4, 1894)

        The Bible has little to say in praise of men. Little space is given to recounting the virtues of even the best men who have ever lived. This silence is not without purpose; it is not without a lesson. All the good qualities that men possess are the gift of God; their good deeds are performed by the grace of God through Christ. Since they owe all to God the glory of whatever they are or do belongs to Him alone; they are but instruments in His hands. More than this—as all the lessons of Bible history teach—it is a perilous thing to praise or exalt men; for if one comes to lose sight of his entire dependence on God, and to trust to his own strength, he is sure to fall. (Patriarchs and Prophets p. 717)

        Like(3)
        • Your comments remind me of a couple verses:
          NRS Proverbs 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.
          NRS Proverbs 27:21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, so a person is tested by being praised.

          May God help us all to pass the tests with His approval.

          Like(0)
      • It is to be appreciated the hard work to become a Dr. The things that get out of normal is when someone demands to be called Dr. X or Y. And also when you go to church instead of letting the word of God to speak we hear for 5 to 10 minutes about the Dr. that is to speak. This for me is out of place and most of the time (90%) the Dr. likes it.

        Like(1)
  6. Maurice
    Thank you for your comment which I agree with wholeheartedly. To me, showing appreciation to others is a form of loving and most definitely encouragement. We are instructed in Heb 10:25 to encourage one another. I Thes. 5:12-15 gives explicit instructions for us ...to those who work hard, we are to "hold in highest regard in love because of their work..." And to others, we are to "encourage the timid, help the weak...". How do we do that? We give them words of gratitude and encouragement. Those words are small rewards to encourage us towards the "greater reward" our Father is preparing for us in Heaven.

    Like(1)
  7. Words have got power,so we should be mindful of what we say since words which are casually utterd wound others,although us we may recover from the effect,so we should listen more and talk less.since we may be judged by our words.

    Like(1)
  8. Because we are humans, born in sin and shaped in iniquity, we almost never see our faults. Sinning comes natural, therefore, we cannot and will not stop gossiping and tale bearing without having a relationship with Jesus. Destroying unity is the job of the devil and he knows that man's greatest pleasure in life is to be endowed with praise, we like to be noticed, awarded, recognized and complimented. Armed with this ammunition the devil cunningly spreads discord among believers who do not have a constant and daily connection with God. It should therefore be our purpose in life to make sure that we have that connection with God, so that we will be able to defuse the strifes that will shatter unity among our congregation, and lift each other up instead.

    Like(2)
  9. Instead of criticizing others, we should stop and compare ourselves to Jesus! Think of the woman that was brought to Jesus for committing adultery and Jesus said that anyone without sin could throw the first stone and so they had to stop and think about their own lives and each one turned and left, for they all had committed some sin. Jesus did not condemn her but told her to go and sin no more. We can not criticize others, for each one of us have sinned! All we have to do is ask Jesus to forgive us and help us to live our lives filled with His love!

    Like(1)
  10. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat...

    Like(1)
  11. Proverbs 27:17 "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." We have a responsiblity towards upbuilding each other, but we need to do it in love and affection. Christ says you can certainly be very good at it (Matthew 7:1-5). He however recommends the ideal process: Prayerful introspection, confession of your faults, repentance for own faults (as many times). Only once that is complete help (not accuse) your brother with his faults. Accusers belong only with "the accuser of the brethren". You know who that is of course.

    Like(0)

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