The other day, in a Bible study, a friend said they wrestle with being judgmental. They aren’t alone in that struggle. It ranks right up there with griping about people (even if it’s only to ourselves). I think these things creep into many of us unaware. They are easy habits to slide into and once those lenses are on, they can be hard to remove. But not impossible.
Paul says in Philippians 3:4-6 that he was a “Hebrew of the Hebrews.” It sounds a little like today’s version of “I’m a good Christian” or “I’ve been a Christian for years” or “Look at all I do in the church! I’m part of the 20% doing 80% of the work.”And on go the griping, judgmental lenses. It happens. But remember that Paul did not stay in that mindset and, more than that, he shows us how to deal with it.
Two things have struck me as I’ve been reading and mulling over Paul’s epistles in the New Testament:
- his constant thankfulness for the people God has put in his life. Many of the books he wrote start with how thankful he is for them.
- his frequent prayers for the people God has put in his life. We see his prayers scattered throughout his letters.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you… Rom. 1:8
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 1 Cor. 1:4
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Eph. 1:16
I thank my God every time I remember you. Phil. 1:3
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you… Col. 1:3
I always thank God for all of you in our prayers. 1 Thess. 1:2
I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 2 Tim. 1:3
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers… Philemon 4
Paul thanked God for bringing them into his life. Sure, he saw they weren’t perfect and he went on to address other things in their lives, sometimes strongly and other times gently, but flowing through his letters is love. His love for them, and even greater, God’s love for them.
Coupled with his thankfulness for them, Paul prayed for them. He prayed generally and yet specifically for them. He didn’t settle for God-bless-them-one-and-all kind of prayers. Paul knew what was of primary importance–their relationship with God, so that’s what he prayed for.
Paul prayed that
- God would give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so they could know Him better.
- the eyes of their heart would be enlightened in order that they might know the hope to which He called them. Eph. 1:18
- they might know the incomparable great power for those who believe. Eph. 1:19
- God would strengthen them with power through His Spirit in their inner being. Eph. 3:16
- they might have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Eph. 3:18
- they might know the love that surpasses knowledge–that they might be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:19
- their love might abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight. Phil. 1:9
- they might be able to discern what is best. Phil. 1:10
- God would fill them with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Col. 1:9
- they might live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that they might have great endurance and patience. Col. 1:10-11
Paul chose to be thankful for the people God had put in his life, even though some of those people hurt him and went against everything he had taught them.
Paul says in Philippians 1:3, I thank my God every time I remember you.
Do we thank God every time we remember certain people? What about thanking God for those people who have hurt us or disappointed us or disregarded what we said or simply pushed our buttons?
Thankfulness and prayer–practiced, habitual thankfulness and prayer for others will change how we see people and how we feel about them. It changes us. It allows us to love them as God calls us to love.
Simply trying to be less judgmental doesn’t usually work. We need to ask for God’s help and we need to pry it out of our thoughts and lives and replace it with thankfulness and prayer for others. If we do this, it can change our lives.
Is there someone in your life you need to be thankful for? Someone you grumble and gripe about that you will pray for and be thankful for?
Make a plan now so that when the ugly thoughts start you can spot them, pull them out and replace them with thankfulness and prayer for them.
So tell me, is there one of Paul’s prayers that you will pray instead?
*All Scripture quoted from the NIV Bible.