My grandmother has been sick for about three weeks, including a week or so in the local hospital. Her immune system isn’t what it used to be now that she has reached her mid 80’s. She has been a widow now for over a decade, has very little in the form of monetary wealth, and doesn’t get to go on trips or even to church anymore. On the surface you would think she had plenty of room to complain. You would think she would begin to see things through a lens of negativity and discouragement. However, you would be wrong.
If you are alive and pay any attention at all to the world around you, it is blatantly obvious that we live in some critical times. The media and the phenomenon of social media has magnified this fact. As a follower of Jesus, I also tend to pay attention to the “spiritual climate” of our culture…and the culture within the body of Christ (the church world-wide). I am no expert, nor would I ever pretend to be, but in the last couple of years I have begun to sense a spirit of criticism that has infiltrated “the church”.
Maybe it has been there for a long time and I’m just noticing it. Maybe I’ve had my head in the sand. Maybe it’s more noticeable, because with social media, people feel free to display their true feelings as quickly as they can type…and often what I see is very ugly and frankly disappointing.
I have a high tolerance for this kind of behavior as it relates to non-believers. These are people who simply haven’t discovered the love of Jesus. I even have a high tolerance for people who maybe just react in emotion before they respond thoughtfully. I have done this more than once. But my tolerance is wearing thin for people who know Him and His love, yet find it comfortably fitting to put another brother or sister on blast.
With all of the pain, fear, suffering, depression, hopelessness, brokenness, and emptiness that floods the hearts of the people on this earth, I find it absolutely BAFFLING that other “Christians” would waste their breath (or time) on criticizing other believers, churches, and in particular….Pastors.
It is a disturbing trend that can only be compared to a noxious poison that if not eliminated, can wipe out a population of existing and potential believers. God doesn’t empower criticism. In fact, I believe where criticism begins, is where power ceases to exist.
How about we use up the limited number of breaths we have, to build up one another with encouragement, to extend a loving hand and lift someone out of a deep pit of pain. How about you substitute the time it took you to type that ridiculously critical Facebook posts about Joel Osteen being a heretic, or a wolf in sheep clothing, or whatever, to actually bless others and display grace the way he does.
I love “the church”, what it represents, what it does for the least of these, the amazing people who comprise it. I love my brothers and sisters around the globe…and with the persecution that is taking place against Christians world-wide, I for one cannot understand why other “believers” would decide to join in with them. I will not sit by and watch my brothers and sisters get ripped by other “believers”. If this is the way you truly feel about people who share the gospel, I would challenge you to look in the mirror and examine the clothing you are wearing. Maybe the wolf isn’t Joel Osteen (or name any number of men or women of God)…
I called my grandmother last week to check on how she was feeling as I do from time to time. I could tell that her voice was still being affected by the sinus infection she was getting over. She told me how sick she had been and all about her hospital visit. But then she told me how she was watching her Pastor (Joel Osteen) a couple of nights ago. She said she was feeling really sick, but at some point during his sermon he prayed for those at the church and those watching by television who were sick. Here is what she said: “Clint, it was like he was praying directly for me. I raised my hands and just received that prayer. Right after that I started to feel better, and I have felt better ever since.”
You see, since she is unable to go to church anymore, she says she has two pastors…Pastor Rusty Nelson (my pastor) and Pastor Joel Osteen. My grandmother has always had a sanguine personality. She has always been, outgoing, energetic, and upbeat. But in the last few years I have seen her grow in her faith. In the face of loneliness, she maintains a positive outlook on life and is thankful for every extra day God gives her on this earth. I literally cannot have a conversation with her without hearing her say, “Think positive and not negative. God wants us to be positive.” That sounds a lot like someone I know…(So deceptive and tricky right??)
This isn’t a post to defend Joel Osteen specifically, but if that’s how it comes across…so be it. Actually, God defends Joel Osteen. So you can throw rocks and trash people like him all you want, but you can’t convince me that lives aren’t being changed by the ministry God has entrusted to him. Is he perfect? Of course not. Do I agree with every single word he says? Probably not. However, I believe God has equipped EVERY christian (those in the secular work force, missionaries, teachers, prophets, artists, writers, intercessors, Pastors, etc) with a specific mission, with a specific voice, and with specific influence to do great things in His name.
Far be it from me to show up on a Facebook “News Feed”, Twitter, or behind someone’s back like a finger wagging Pharisee. Far be it from me to judge a man of God, or any human, especially one I don’t even know on a personal level. Time is short, and if you are a follower of Christ that has given in to the spirit of criticism, you are doing more harm than good by aiming your arrows in the wrong direction! The enemy is not Joel Osteen or any other person. The real enemy is satan, aka the accuser of the brethren. Snap out of it!
I’ll close with the scriptures below (and there are many more), because my words aren’t good enough to elaborate on the magnitude of the critical spirit. What’s interesting is to see how Jesus responded to his disciples who were trying to stop another man of God from casting out demons in Jesus’ name.
Mark 9:38-40 says:
38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us.
Here is what Matthew Henry’s commentary says about this passage:
“Many have been like the disciples, ready to silence men who have success in preaching to sinners repentance in Christ’s name, because they follow not with them. Our Lord blamed the apostles, reminding them that he who wrought miracles in his name would not be likely to hurt his cause. If sinners are brought to repent, to believe in the Saviour, and to live sober, righteous, and godly lives, we then see that the Lord works by the preacher.”