by Mike Ratliff
10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 11 For it is written,
“ AS I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to ME,
And every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.
13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this— not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. (Romans 14:10-13 NASB)
Without a doubt, there is a growing apostasy in the Church. One of the main reasons this is taking place is that the majority of professing Christians have adopted the pervasive attitude in modern Western culture that says authority to determine right and wrong resides in the individual. Combine this with a critical spirit in one person and we have one who not only believes that truth is whatever he or she determines it is, but they also seem to take great pleasure in hypocritically judging others just as our Lord commanded us not to do (Matthew 7:1-6).
As Babe Ruth lay dying from cancer, Connie Mack the legendary team owner, and manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, came to visit him. He was shocked at how this large man full of life had shrunk. Ruth’s voice had degenerated into a very hoarse, guttural whisper that Mack described as, “That terrible voice…” However, he was able to whisper to Mack, “The termites have got me.” Babe Ruth died the next day.
I am convinced by what I have been taught from the Word of God and from studying Church history that debate is a healthy thing for the Church. It is through polemics that truth is seen clearly and what is false is cleansed from the Church. We must be discerning Christians who examine everything preachers preach and teachers teach in the visible Church. We must examine them closely and be ready to confront those who teach what is unscriptural. This is a very healthy thing my brethren and has often been what God used to move the Church to learn His doctrines.
On the other hand, there are some in the visible Church that seem to have the ministry akin to a swarm of termites. Their attacks are not scriptural in nature. Instead, they are based in religiosity or philosophy or from some motivation that feeds a critical spirit. There is nothing wrong with judging if it is done as our Lord and the Apostles did it, but there is another form of judging that has an entirely different motive. You see, proper judging should be done for one of two motivations. The first is the repentance and restoration of the one who is in error. The second is to warn the Church of those who have been proven to teach and preach what is unscriptural. A good example of this is to confront those who have compromised the Gospel in order not to be offensive to the world.
However, the termites major in minors. Some will condemn those who use a Bible that is not a King James Version. Others will write other Christians off because their view of eschatology is not the same as theirs. I have had plenty of debates with these and many others who have an agenda energized by the attitude that says authority to determine the truth resides in them. I have always been amazed at the shortsightedness of this attitude and the searing blindness that refuses to see that if their attitude is right then what about the authority to determine the truth in those they are attempting to chew up. This is why God did not give the individual this authority. This authority is His and He has given us His truth in His Word. He has given us Pastors, Evangelists, Bible Teachers, and theologians who have the spiritual gifts to prophesy for the edification of the Body and the glory of God. All in Christ are new creations that have the Holy Spirit. They can read and understand God’s Word as they prayerfully consume and live in it.
I know that there are termites reading this who are insisting that there are no more godly preachers and teachers diligently preaching the Word and rightly dividing the Word of Truth, but that is not the case. I am sure many of you reading this can give examples of your own Pastors who are good examples of those who obedient rightly divide the Word of Truth and expound those truths to them. I am sorry that there are also some who have very few choices where you live, but that does not mean that God has completely forsaken His Church.
What is a critical spirit? It is an obsessive attitude of criticism and faultfinding, which seeks to tear others down. This is not the same thing as constructive criticism, which is criticism expressed in love to build up, not to tear down. It will always be expressed personally or face-to-face. It will never be expressed impersonally or behind the back of the one being criticized. The person with a critical spirit usually dwells on the negative, seeks for flaws rather than good. They are complainers and are usually upset. They seem to always have a problem or complaint about something. They seem to have no self-control when it comes to temper. Their tongue can be quite sharp. They may tend towards gossip and slander (Romans 1:29-32).
I know some people personally whose faces I could see in my mind as I wrote that last paragraph. I could hear their complaining voices and witness their outrage about whatever it is that is bothering them. Now take that spirit and combine it in a person who believes they are sole proprietor of the truth and you have a termite on steroids whose favorite pastime is to chew up those who they see as unworthy of the position in which God has placed them and is using them. You see, the motives for those with a critical spirit are quite ugly.
They have a bad attitude and a negative view of life. They may be hiding unconfessed sin in their life (Romans 2:1). They may be harboring unforgiveness or bitterness toward someone who may have offended them (Hebrews 12:15). This all creates a negativeness that expresses itself in a critical spirit.
They may also be insecure. Criticism is often a subconscious means to “elevate one’s own self image.” They put others down. They are inwardly trying to feel more important or that “they know more” than those they are attacking. Jealousy toward the spiritual victories of others is often the cause of criticism and belittling comments. The more popular a minister is, such as R.C. Sproul or John MacArthur the more of a target they become of these tactics.
Christians who have a critical spirit with which they are not dealing in repentance on a daily basis are not spiritually mature. The mature believer is so because he or she keeps their focus upon Christ and His Word, not man, who will often fail (Hebrews 12:1-2). The immature Christian who has not progressed very far in their own faith often remains overly dependent upon the faith of those within the body of Christ. Unfortunately, eventually they will begin to notice flaws in their brethren. Subconsciously, this becomes a threat to their own sense of victory. Criticism becomes a reaction of disappointment, because their expectations in others have been crushed.
Another reason a professing Christian may exhibit a critical spirit is that he or she is not regenerate. They have an unrenewed mind. Put-downs, making-fun-of, criticism, sarcasm directed towards the brethren are the not of the Spirit. They are of the world. These are the ways the world reacts to the faults of people. Christians should mature and grow away from this sort of behavior as their thinking and attitudes become renewed by the Word of God, which teaches us to bear the infirmities of the weak, to love, and show compassion and encouragement (Romans 12:1-2).
Lastly, we must understand that our enemy, Satan, can use any or all of these things to influence a complaining or critical attitude to stir up turmoil and strife within the body of Christ (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore, we must be in prayer while we devote ourselves to Christ and God’s will so that we will be on guard that we would not be used as a tool of Satan to bring harassment or discouragement upon our brothers and sisters in Christ through continual criticism. If we are slack in this then we could very well be giving place to the Devil (Ephesians 4:27). Those who fall into this trap take on his character of being an accuser of the brethren.
We must all prayerfully examine ourselves. Let us ask God to show us the truth about how we judge others, whether we are doing so biblically with pure motives or if we are being termites who are only chewing up those who, for whatever reason, we desire to bring down some. This must not be so amongst us my brethren. Let us repent of these things that God can use us mightily in the battle for the truth and that we would not be guilty of “friendly fire” as termites.
Soli Deo Gloria!