Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
September 17, 2017
Redirecting energy used in condemning others
I learned a good lesson when I was a greenhorn preacher. In the first year of our ministry my wife and I had lunch after church one Sunday in the humble home of Mrs. Emma Shepherd. The subject of Oral Roberts’ healing ministry came up. Pontificating on the matter, I began criticizing the popular television evangelist, ripping the dear man up one side and down the other.
When I put down a period, there was silence at the table. Mrs. Shepherd, the godly matriarch of a large family, had listened patiently. Then in a firm but conciliatory voice, she said quietly, “Now Brother Albritton, if you cannot say something nice about someone, you had best say nothing at all.”
Her words cut like a knife and made me blush with shame. I condemned no one else that day. I wish I could say “no one since that day,” but I cannot. I can say that for more than 60 years I have recalled Emma’s words many times as though she was still reminding me to cease judging others.
I confess that I am quick to stand in judgment of others, especially people who are cavalier about moral conduct that, according to Scripture, is abhorrent to God. I am guilty of harshly judging “the liberals” whose views are often different from my own.
In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul reminds us that “God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.” His words drive me to my knees when I consider how often I condemn others for the same sins I struggle with in my own life. The words of Jesus remind me not to become an expert in spotting “the speck” in my neighbor’ eye while blind to “the log” in my own eye.
“Secret thoughts” remind me of a prayer in our church’s liturgy: “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Wow! What a prayer! My heart is an open book to God! He knows all my secrets! How arresting is that thought! I love this prayer because it does not leave me in despair. It gives me hope that God can cleanse my heart of my evil thoughts and my shameful criticism of others.
My judgment of others does not serve God, nor honor Christ. My opinions do not bless the people who endure listening to me sound off. People do not need my condemnation; they need my compassion, encouragement and love. The energy I use in condemning others could be, should be, redirected, channeled into deeds of love and mercy. Would to God I could remember that when I am tempted to criticize! Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy! + + +